Truly, there are few parallels in history for so many people to have deep and abiding relationships without knowing a) each other's appearance
, b) their physical locations
, and c) their legal names. About the only thing that comes to mind is the intelligence community
(whose influence, along with the limited storage space of early computers, dictated why
we insist on calling each other by poetic nicknames
instead of names dictated by birth or marriage). Talking with my mother one Christmas, who is proudly "computer illiterate"
, I had to explain to her why I don't send Christmas cards
to many of the people I know and love throughout the world. It's not that actual paper cards are expensive (they are), or that it's a pain to get them in the mail in time (it's not really, but still...), but that I don't know where to send them.
She asked me whether I couldn't look them up, but that begged the question of names... it would be difficult to mail a card to "Darkwing, somewhere in California (I think), who likes fugu and NIN."
I then realized that in most ways, I simply don't care to know.
Most names tell me less about someone than about the ethnicity and expectations of their parents, which in Mom's world was an integral part of getting to know someone. To me, it's immaterial. In many ways, "Darkwing" is better, since it might actually remind me that he likes depressing music and eating poisonous fish. Locations? Same idea. In her day, knowing someone's address helped peg them, not only ethnically, but socioeconomically as well. My friend Dark might actually be a native Californian, or he may not. Maybe he lives with three other roomies in a tract house somewhere in one of the innumerable Valleys, maybe in a mansion in Atherton. Again, immaterial, if what I want to do is play games or banter, and there's no guarantee that living in one isn't going to change to the other over a few years. And let's not start talking about appearence -- for years, the standard gripe of the intelligensia was that people were obsessed with looks and image to the detriment of more important things, like intelligence and verbal skills. I haven't the slightest idea whether Darkwing is short and fat, or tall and thin, and, since I'm not interested in bearing his children or even spending the evening with him as an arm ornament, it makes little difference.
Nowadays, the chattering classes have changed their tune: the Internet is evil because it forces us to deal only with the one-dimensional medium of words and ideas. All I can say to this is: so be it!