Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Embrace Moi

I got caught chatting with my girlfriend. We were in the same room together. Both sitting there. Chatting away.


Emoticons. Pictures being sent back and forth. It was embarrassing. Or awesome! Anyway there is something we have to talk about now. It’s this question of what is up with young people’s obsession with chatting, texting, messaging, and whatever else they invent next week’ing.

The conventional wisdom is that people who are shy or otherwise unable to articulate or satisfy their own egos in real conversation, will at first resort, and then attach to alternative modes of expression.

But maybe it’s not that simple. Yes, some people are shy. And they find themselves empowered by the veil of the internet. This is a whole nother topic (see other topic). But it definitely isn’t always the case. I myself am completely attractive. A real specimen in my own mind. And yet I love engaging in these alternative forms of communication. Why?

I have some ideas.

First, there is the ability to use a more flexible ever-expanding language. This includes neologisms. You would never write those in a letter. A tree died for that paper and what kind of jerk writes silly made up words on paper? But on email? Shit, you’ll delete it eventually. Let the NSA struggle with Osama-lama-ding-dong. I don’t care. It’s email. And emoticons. First developed as a crutch because none of us could express ourselves for shit in the early days, but now they’re kind of like little dried spices you throw into your stew at the last minute, not because—well, ok, because they’re there—but I don’t know, maybe they help? Anyway the sense of innovation and freedom in language is liberating, inspiring and it’s too late to stop it.

Second, there is the ability to embed links to multimedia—pictures, sounds, movies—which can go far in helping us make our point. Before we had to just say, “remember that time in Caddyshack when Bill Murray says…” and hope the other person doesn’t admit they haven’t seen the film, which is always a very bad moment. Course I must say I’ve been spared many of what would have been miserable relationships when the girl I was with was forced to admit she had never seen Star Wars. One girl actually—I kid you not—said she had seen Star Wars but didn’t like it. ?!?@$# Anyway, yeah, so quotes. Awesome.

Blogging. Awesome. The fact that people can comment on your thoughts, ideas, feelings “while you were out” is totally awesome. I imagine before, and maybe even now in some red states, something like a town hall with a big bulletin board made from cork. In college we had such a thing where people could exhibit displays or writings and other people could stick little post-it notes in response. It was anonymous. But someone who didn’t like a comment could walk by, also anonymously, and simply remove the note. That’s censorship! Now that power is safely where it belongs. In my hands. I have sole power to remove my friends’ comments if I don’t like them anymore (the comments, not the friends; I never liked them). So that’s an advance. Really nothing is too much changed here except the technology has dramatically altered both the reach and ease of this type of thought collaboration. And plus there’s really not too much you can fit on a post-it note. I can write blogs the size of a telephone book, and nobody seems to care. It’s great.

So listen up, talking and conversations and letter writing. The new thing is here. And it ain’t going away. Until something better comes along.

For more see: this clip from that Godard Film. And this clip from Tarkovsky’s Mirror.


Kate said...

The first great romance of my life was conducted entirely via crumpled up notes left in lockers. This is before texting and email, obviously, and also apparently before I discovered the telephone. (The second great romance was conducted entirely via telephone in between making out.) So yes, I think that the facelessness of it is a huge part of the success.
But I don't know if these formats help language. In fact I worry, as someone heavily invested in writing, that they actively hinder it. At least, I now make "writing a formal email" part of the curriculum for my dumb little freshmen. Because they don't know you're not supposed to write to a professor by starting "Hey how R U?"
I'm serious. They would do that. They *have* done that.

Can we talk about how our culture has become too casual? I think we should go back to calling each other Mr. This and Ms. That. So much more dignified.

Cold Bacon said...

hey there miss kate. btw how r u today? actually, i completely agree with you. we are too casual, and we should go back to calling each other mr and ms. perhaps the problem is people are unable to make the distinction in terms of when it's time to be informal and when it's time to be formal. i consider people > 30 to be lucky in having experienced both pre and post-internet worlds. i cherish the formality for which you grieve. but i also embrace the extreme cuteness of little animated GIF's. that all said, i think it's totally within your prerogative to tell students all emails beginning "how r u" will be summarily deleted. i wonder what larry birkhead's first romance consisted of?

Cold Bacon said...

language may not need help. or it may not need OUR help. i think if the old books, written in old language, continue to be compelling reading. then people will be forced to enjoy the old language with which they were written. as long as people have this choice, i am satisfied. and because there are more than enough old books for me to ever read all of them, i'm not worried if all the new ones are written poorly.

P.S. CNN broke into their "world news today" in order to show a press conference from OJ's new lawyer. but then just now "world news today" reverse broke into the OJ "presser" in order to cover a bomb which just killed another major anti-Syrian political figure in Beirut. Can you imagine? The fate of the Middle East MORE important in CNN's eyes than an OJ press conference? This truly is shocking.

Dan1jab said...

It's known between me and friends that there are two of me, the real-world me and the internet me. It's pretty blatant that there are two distinct Danny's. Some prefer the real-world Danny and others prefer the internet Danny. The problem is when someone gets both. If someone becomes attracted to one of the Danny's and then discovers the other there seems to be a level of confusion that pushes them away. Because they associate certain qualities with me, and when they discover conflicting qualities it causes their overall attitude of me to fade into what I assume to be an ambiguous gray area.
"Online Danny" is a broad term, too. There's the instant message Danny, the forum Danny, the blog Danny, the reviewer Danny, etc. Each is a little different from the other, depending on the required voice for each category.
I don't know anything about the 'real' you, but you have many online faces. From your website to your forum to your blog there are major differences. And you might even be trying to do it on purpose, but I don't think it even matters because subconsciously the transition occurs whether you're making an effort or not.
With different entities existing within online users I think it may cause people to make a choice. I don't think the online and the real can coexist peacefully in a social lifestyle. Eventually, for the sake of stability, a person might need to choose one of their faces to show people and hide away the other(s), that is, if together the faces cause disharmony.

argue with me, agree with me, or delete me. or even ignore me!

-dan1jab, the online-blogger-Danny

Cold Bacon said...

i will think more about this last point and rewrite this reply again -- and delete this preliminary one. but i appreciate the dilemma and absolutely feel it is an important issue for the individual in modern society. i will offer for the moment that i'm not sure there has to be a final decision about any single persona to cultivate in oneself. i agree there are these different personas. and i agree they can affect other people (would be fans, friends, family, etc.) all differently. and i agree it's important to consider what these effects have on both parties in these relationships. i just haven't yet decided if or what my opinion is regarding what one should therefore do about all this.

it would be easy to say something like "oh, we all have many different personas--the work one--the home one--the out with friends one--etc." and it isn't that such a notion is wrong. but one cannot deny that the internet has had such a powerful and abrupt effect on these dynamics that it has indeed disrupted the previous equilibrium. and confusion has ensued.

Dan1jab said...

i suppose one solution already exists in the form of online aliases. just a few days ago i found myself changing this blogger name from "danny" to "dan1jab" without even really thinking about it. it's a subtle change, but a significant one. after so many years of establishing my different self in the name "dan1jab" there was a sense of urgency to replace "danny" with my alias. i'm suspicious of how drastically my voice would change if i wrote under my true, real world name.

it's not an absolute solution to the online vs. real world confusion, but 'the alias' does simplify matters by serving as a blockade. more barriers could clean up the confusion, but i think "filters" would be more appropriate. (i don't know what an online->real world filter would be. maybe "hi molly, dan1jab MIGHT be me, but maybe i'm lying to your face.") although separation probably isn't the best approach. a merging of the online + real worlds seems like it could happen eventually, somehow.
microsoft will more than likely show us the way.

Cold Bacon said...

yes. in the past, there were authors who wrote under pen names. and if people wanted to smear others anonymously, this was called a "poison pen letter." a great dramatization of this exists in Clouzot's Le Corbeau (1943). i think the most obvious difference between now and then is the barrier to entry is so much lower. essentially, humans haven't changed. only now it requires so much less effort to be a poison pen writer, or invest in an alter or even multiple-egos online. but instead of conforming or bringing these egos together in a solid narrative structure, we can simply have multiple blogs or websites. we all have several social networking sites, don't we? and each one is a little different in the way we present ourselves. we can actively cultivate the different personas, or we can let them slip and slide into one another, either because we become lazy, or because at times we simply don't care. again, before the internet, you had different personas you adopted for different friends and family, did you not? the difference is the barrier (and thus incentive) to actually putting these behaviors and feelings on public display has been altered. and only bill o'reilly is truly upset by all of these developments. for my part, i think it's incumbent on me to put all of these concerns away and focus my energies on visual arts, and ice cream. will you join me?

Dan1jab said...

i will join you.

Cold Bacon said...

good. your first mission will be to collect and resurrect the mockingbirdbat (a.k.a. sugarbat, a.k.a.k.k), who has died. go now, and complete your task. i have spoken.

Dan1jab said...

didn't she die with the forum? tampering with the dead will end in bad karma. my potato garden might not withstand the severe drought and/or grasshopper swarms ahead. but if you insist, i'll require 4 mother hogs, a wooden chair leg, 3 of chuck norris's thickest chest hairs, and her myspace page.

Cold Bacon said...

myspace page? myspace page? if it were only that easy.

sugarbat said...




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