You are, fundamentally, alone.
This is a thought that comes to me over and over again. In all of
these online communities, in any sort of virtual world, there is no
one but you. That is why it never quite feels right, why we still make
the distinction between the online domain and Real Life. The
differences are vast, and I do not think they can be breached within
the binary boundaries of our transmissions.
We sit here, behind our glowing computer screens, pecking away at our
keyboards, feeling like we are somehow talking to someone else, that
there is someone else at the other side of the monitor, at another
terminal. And very often, from a purely objective point of view, there
is indeed someone else at the other end, although their personality is
hidden underneath the cyphers, the ASCII, the smileys, the internet
abbrevations, the jargon, and other peculiarities of the cultural
language that has spawned in the web servers. So long as there is a
monitor between us, we cannot fulfill our social nature.
The illusion is very convincing sometimes. There are times when you
reach out to the person on the other end, or you think you do. You
start to develop affections, alliances, loyalties, indifferences,
distrusts, and enmities. Just like Real Life. But these are often
short-lived and unmasked for the farces that they are. The Other
Person can be so much more selective about the sketch that they draw,
as can you. Smoke and mirrors abound.
It is a highly masturbatory act. That is why it never feels as
good as the real thing. Why are people so much more egocentric
online? I have seen it happen, even within myself. The shyest kid will
become the most vocal member of an online community, precisely because
she feels as if she could basically be alone with her own
thoughts, even in the chat room. She can sit, alone, with the cathode
ray tube hitting her eyes, and type away. There are no
responsibilities, no fears; all shame is gone. This is text that
does not affect her life. It is an escapist fantasy. She can exclaim
whatever comes into her head and await attention and response. There
is no need to empathise with the text of others, and the others too
will ignore her own, fundamentally. Misunderstandings are inevitable. This is not
dialogue. It is an incongrous mish-mash of intertwined
monologues. Even young children talking to each other in their sleep have deeper interaction than this.
It has something to do with the very medium. When compared to a real
human being of flesh and bone, text is as nourishing as three grains
of rice. Aren't you hungry for a lot more? Here you can receive but
the smallest trickle of a person's totality. People deserve to be
digested much more thoroughly than this. Let me see the glimmer in your eyes,
the rising and falling of your chest when a beautiful sunset makes you
sigh, or the upward curl of your lips when you feel complacent.
Let me hear the intonation of your voice, the words you emphasise, the
pronounciation of the words. Let me hear the
meaningless particles you introduce into your speech as you hunt for
the right words and the gushing of air into your lungs as you prepare
the next sentence. Let me follow the direction your eyes turn, and the
emotions you brandish on your brow. Hell, even the awkward silences, I
want those too, because that is more real than any server lag will
Let me make you a part of me, just like any real person I
meet always is. What say you to a cup of coffee at five, far away from the cybercafé?
The irony of this text and its mode of presentation is not lost to