Drinking Seawater

Nothing specific, no triggering events, just a general reflection of my thoughts on my hobby life on the internet.

I get almost no personal email these days. What I do get is hurried, abrupt, and often quasi-coherent. Much of it is tagged that it was sent by a phone. Most of the email I send to my friends never gets a response at all; that’s not completely odd, as it only addresses the most basic aspects of communicating a single idea or working logistics for get-togethers.

I think much of the reason behind this is that we have a different idea of how we communicate. A person does not communicate with another person. A person communicates to an audience that includes another person.

I am not sure our culture will admit that the time and effort you spend on communicating with someone is an indicator of your respect for that person.

Whether the medium is Facebook or Twitter or G+, communication now seems to be about putting yourself out there like you are a brand, trying to gain popularity. If you want to make sure some certain people see it, you tag them, and maybe they respond.

I feel this slides our communication to being about “me” instead of “you” or “us.” The loyalty you feel to the people you are talking to is more like how you feel about an audience than how you feel about a friend. There are insulating layers to reduce that sense of connection; assume people are here for content, not for you. They are consuming social media, and if you don’t provide it someone else will. You are not hosting someone in your living room, you join the same party in progress where they are. Together, you make some wry observations and communicate a bit, then you go off to separate galleries in the huge social event.

Nothing wrong with any of that.

Unless you are kind of lonely. Then online posting, reading, and discussions can intensify the rotating feelings of insignificance, invisibility, and transience. The roar of chatter is deafening, and so is the silence; an ocean of talk and a drought of listening.

If you do want people you can rely on like friends, trying to find them online feels like being a thirsty castaway drinking sea water just to have that quenched feeling. The more you drink, the more dried out and sick you get.

This is not everyone’s experience, of course. I am an introvert, I don’t like conflict, and I want people to think I am cool. One of the great summaries of some of this feeling was put out by Courtney Campell. He said it is the universal human lament: “Who will see the beauty of my labor! Why does no one speak of what I have done, in my limited time up on this plane?”

The internet is a perfect breeding ground for passive aggression in many ways. If you don’t care, it is still useful. But sometimes it can really get you down. An influx of negativity is really bad, sure, but a complete inability to connect can be damaging too.

It is okay if no one else feels this way. This is my experience, how I feel on the internet. I can’t come here for strength, only when I have strength to spend.

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5 Responses to Drinking Seawater

  1. Well said. I find myself posting and lurking, but it is very difficult to go beyond the occasional exchange of comments as “conversation”. For me, blogging is a way to put down all the many ideas I have in a sort of cloud storage while also making it available for other gamers who might find it interesting/useful. I have way more ideas than I will probably ever be able to play out with my group so blogging is an outlet for that creativity.

  2. fictivite says:

    Edward: Yeah, I know what you mean. I have a lot of stuff on this blog that I have not really gotten to thoroughly work through. Like casting webbing that hasn’t been passed through hands enough to be properly knotted into nets. Still, it’s shiny, and it doesn’t have to be FINISHED to be put on a blog. Right? RIGHT?!? =)

  3. Makamo says:

    Timely comment.
    While visiting my 86 year old Mom, she shared three letters that had been sent to her. They were treasures! I commented how impressed I was. She said you have to send them to get them. Think I’ll try it and see what happens.

  4. fictivite says:

    Makamo: as late as college in the mid 90s, I was still corresponding by letter. Just because. =)

    Pity the future historian who will try to suss out what our lives were really about, who has to go through Twitters a century old!

  5. fadedearth says:

    If you have room in your schedule for 150 pages, you will find Zygmunt Bauman’s “Consuming Life” quite something.

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