Tuesday, April 1, 2008

conflict resolution/resignation

This blog would not exist if not for my relationship with a certain friend, a discussion we once had on blogging in general, and my skepticism of its ability to fulfill. Everyone who blogs gets their jollies from it in his or her own weird way, and I won't deny that I have enjoyed stroking my particular neuroses through the writing itself, as well as pandering to the voyeuristic desires of my imagined audience. But I'm not here today to get into a discussion on the psychology of blogging. I want to talk about how the internet has essentially turned my friendships into magazine subscriptions: we all get to read and enjoy each other's anecdotes and photos, without having to put any effort into actual personal exchange. It's made me a lazy friend, and I'm not proud of that.

How many of you check out the blogs and facebook/myspace pages of your friends more often than you actually see, speak to, or write to them? It's okay; we all do it. It's convenient, it's a fun diversion, and sometimes a few minutes during a workday break is all we can spare. That's what those sites are there for, anyway. I put some effort into maintaining my blog and myspace page because I know a few people here and there actually are looking at them. And I want them to be looked at. What I don't want is for glancing at a couple of websites every now and then to take the place of real interaction.

I have seen photos of the husbands, wives and children of people whom I haven't spoken to in years. I know who their closest friends are, and I can even see jokes they're shared and notes they've written to each other. I know where they've been on vacation this year, what they've done with the house they just bought, what bands they're listening to, what they watch on TV, what books they're reading, who they're sleeping with, and which presidential candidate they support. There's not really anything wrong with all of that, either. Or is there? I imagine running into an old friend and having this awkward conversation:

"Hey! I haven't seen you in ages! How's it going?"

"Well, I got married last year to..."

"Yeah, I saw that on your MySpace page. She seems like a great girl. Pretty, too."

"And we have two kids, they're two and four now..."

"Mattie and James, right? They're adorable. I saw the photos you posted."

"Right. So we bought a house and we're...."

"Yeah, I love what you guys are doing with it! The addition was a great decision, and the landscaping is perfect."

"Thanks. So, uh... I read in your blog that you just moved back from New York. Going back to school, eh? Journalism? Good choice, I always thought you should be a writer."

"Hey, that means a lot. Thanks. So, I'm really digging being back here and..."

"Yeah, seems like you've been enjoying yourself. Love those pictures from the beach. And I see you've gotten yourself a boyfriend."

"Right, right. So... Is there anything new going on in your life? Maybe something I haven't seen on MySpace?"

"Uh, no, actually it's all there."

"Great, so I'll just keep checking your profile."

"Yeah, same here. Wow, keeping up with friends these days sure is easy!"

"No kidding. Say, maybe we'll bump into each other again in a couple years and avoid eye contact so as not to have to have another vapid conversation about absolutely nothing."

"Great! See ya, or not!"


So getting back to the friend I mentioned earlier... Our current relationship is a perfect example of what the above dialogue -- though exaggerated -- represents. Through no fault of his or mine, we've become habituated to learning about each other's lives through our respective cursory web representations, and I think we've been fooling each other into thinking that that's enough. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I know there are wonderful, exciting, life-changing things happening in my friends' lives, and it's a shame that we don't always get to share the stories behind the photos and the status changes. I'd really love to hear how my friend feels about applying to grad school, or what he thinks of the new R.E.M. album, or how his love life is going. Another of my closest friends just became engaged, and I didn't get to hear the excitement in her voice because she told me the news via text message. And on that note, I'll bet my friends are vaguely aware that the profound thing that I share with my boyfriend simply can't be summed up by the words, "in a relationship," but they're probably too busy to ask. Just like me.

I do love that we live in a time in which technology is advancing faster than I can adjust to it; it's fascinating and exciting, and I thoroughly appreciate the entertainment and conveniences I have been afforded. I just don't want the use of these things as part of my lifestyle to take the place of living, y'know?


carly said...

My friend Andy and I both made the New Year's resolution to try to stay in touch by writing each other actual letters. It's wonderful in concept, and the warmth I feel when receiving a letter can't be duplicated, but I've been amazed at how difficult this is now that I'm older. It's already April and we've managed one letter each. I usually quit because my hand hurts, not because I've said all I intended to say.

I'm curious to see what the long term effects of all this technology will be. What will they publish in the future--"The Collected Myspace Comments of Mark Doty"? "Lorrie Moore's Blog"? Or perhaps by then we won't be publishing anything at all.

vv said...

One of the essays in that Franzen collection I was telling you about is on the "death of the novel" and includes excerpts from interviews with, among others, the guy who runs the tech lab at M.I.T. (and writes for Wired magazine). Franzen discusses how technology has affected socialization, learning, and crime, while allowing opposing contributing viewpoints and without forcing a judgement or conclusion. It's fascinating, you must read it.

I'm Frank said...

Thank goodness for Myspace, Blogger, and the internet in general. That way I can keep tabs on people and get updates on their life without ever putting on pants and leaving my room.

jesse said...

That friend of yours sounds awesome.

V said...

yeah, he's a fuckin' animal.