False Intimacy

I have been thinking about the above topic for awhile. False Intimacy, as a topic for this blog, came to me while watching a band I liked. I was shooting video of them performing (unasked). I was thinking one of the band members was cute. I couldn’t catch his eye though. (The problem with liking shoegaze bands!) Later, I actually spoke with one of the band members, when I bought their CD. Then I sent email to the band thanking them for the show, via myspace, and got a personal reply back, from the member who sold me the CD. (I checked, as their names and instruments played were on their myspace account.) And despite myspace labelling everyone I choose to mutually connect with on the site being labelled my friends, I am clear that very few of my “friends” there are actually my real life friends.

So, there’s everyone taking pictures and videotaping everything, blogging, twittering, and generally getting their viewpoint out into the world, and if anyone is interested in knowing exactly what that experience is, if it is out there in the blogosphere, it is findable.

Everyone, –from bands, to actors, to prestigious organizations, neighborhood bars, the kid down the street, to the family pet,– can get their viewpoint out into the world. Everyone who chooses to, is branding themselves. They are presenting a public face to the world. This may or may not be the complete picture. Chances are very good that it is not the complete picture. I censor my thoughts, don’t write those thoughts that perhaps might not be wise, might not be true, might be hurtful… In person, I probably would never say them either, so the self-censoring is who I am. But what you don’t see is that facial expression, body language or hair flip that might give me away, without a word being said. Good and bad censored thoughts.

So doesn’t all that is available out in the blogosphere create a sense of knowing someone or a group, when really, that doesn’t exist? That sense that you know someone, just because you read their written thoughts, listen to the music they like, watch the videos they watch? Even if you email them directly, have several email correspondences? That really does not qualify them as a friend. Maybe, at most, an acquaintance.

Before the internet was as powerful a tool as it is today, there was television and the print media for branding celebrities. Even back then, I noticed when I met the random celebrity, I found myself tongue-tied, trying hard to back pedal and remember what I knew for fact about them, versus what I had heard as rumor. I would try to recall my sources of information, assess which ones were reliable. I would try to come up with something as innocuous and neutral as possible to say, if I even got the chance. Also, I realized that not everyone in celebrity-dom wanted to be treated like a celebrity. So if I acted as if I knew nothing about them, perhaps they would appreciate the fact I did not pretend to be their friend just for having information about them. That they were human too, just like me, and wanted to be treated like anyone else. But then again, they might be offended if I seemed to not know who they were.

Needless to say, this did not happen very often, so the conundrum often went unresolved, as the moment passed.

But now with rss feeds of blogs, twitter, facebook, myspace and youtube, and the advent of cell phones perfect to interface with all these things, we have instant access to one another’s public face. To everyone else’s brand. Real or imagined. I can keep tabs on ex-boyfriends if I so choose to, if they have a public cyberface. I can keep tabs on imagined future boyfriends. I can create any type of relationship with all these other cyber-personaes I choose to. In my head.

But does it actually mean I know the other person(s)?

I don’t think so.

Let me look at it another way. My definition of a friend is someone that I know that I can give a call to and talk with, potentially get together and meet with. There are some people I don’t know where they live, have never been to their house, and some other people that live far far away from me and thus it is unlikely I will be meeting with anytime soon. However, I still consider some of those people my friends. Friends I have a history with. We used to do things together. We used to go to the same school or worked at the same place. Perhaps we volunteered together, or camped next to one another. We have a shared culture of some sort. That’s my definition of friends.

So where does that leave the public cyber-faces of others? I would put them in the category of acquaintances. They are people I know of, I may have met, but have I actually had a conversation with? Okay, email chats could count in that category, agreed. Are they someone I might call to grab a coffee with? Do I even have their phone number? Some people hand out phone numbers as if being in the most people’s phone directories is a prize to be won. Other people never give out their real email address.

I have run into the problems false intimacy and the ease of access to information is these days, asking someone if a number I looked up through the white pages on the internet was their home phone number. (Formula: Full name+name of city resided in=phone number if publically listed.) It freaked them out. Why? It was extremely public information. Whether the city was next door, or in a country around the world, it makes no difference these days. I managed to do the exact same thing back in high school, using the local phone book to figure out someone’s address. Public information, people.  Someone else, a real friend, actually figured out within two blocks where I had moved to, just from the comments I had made about my neighborhood in a previous blog. But he’s like that, always taking as a challenge anything to do with clues. If he were a stalker, I would be somewhat frightened.  

We want to be public. We want to be known. And we want to connect. But when does it cross from being someone you know of, to someone you actually interact with?

At what point do we become friends in cyberspace? When does it move from a false intimacy to a true intimacy?

I don’t have an answer, I’m just asking. Like my fondness for Henry Rollins and talking about it, I am very clear that at this point, never having spoken or even interacted with him, all I have is a sense of false intimacy. At this point, it is only one way. He talks, he performs, I listen. Me and many other people listen. I am not alone in the listening. I am probably not alone in the slight crush department. Even if he were to know about it, if it continued to be a one way interaction, it is still not real, other than I am a fan. That is the only label one can put to it.

Mr. Rollins Spinning at KCRW's Radioactive

Mr. Rollins Spinning at KCRW's Radioactive

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2 Responses to “False Intimacy”

  1. gary Says:

    I just blogged that you’ve been my buddy since around age 12 or 13. That is fairly genuine friend history!

  2. redroomsalon Says:

    Absolutely. No question about it. Shared history of school as a bonding experience!

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