Intimacy On The Net - NotMonday, October 08, 2007
Here’s the thing: the Net’s killer app has always been other people. There are side benefits, like access to all the world’s information. But the links that matter aren't between pages but people, and they’re strong and rich and subtle. Multiply the infinite flavors in human relationships by a thickening bundle of means-to-connect; that product is what’s new and what’s good and what’s exciting. People who are looking for the Next Big Thing are mostly looking in the wrong places. And anyway, you don’t need to look, it’ll find you.
From a fragment in Tim Bray's ongoing
The above statement and what followed hit me hard. The idea that a self-defined computer programmer (Tim Bray of Sun Microsystems) would be at all interested and aware of intimacy in human relationships, instantly removes him from my obviously misguided idea that computer programmers are people who are extremely shy, avoid all human contact and hide behind impenetrable technical methods and terms.
In my life I have achieved a relative amount of intimacy through writing. At first (and almost all of my life) it was frustrating. I had learned the qwerty keyboard but my dyslexia made typing a chore. Writing long hand became a problem after age 30 when, for reasons I cannot understand, my handwriting rapidly deteriorated and became illegible not only to me but to those I wrote to.
I was liberated around 1990 by a Smith Corona PWP (personal word processor, see above photograph) which enabled me to correct on a small screen without having to violently tear out the sheet of foolscap, rumpling it into a ball and throwing it into the waste basket. I avoided computers and computer attached word processors even when I hooked up to the internet in January 1995. At the time I was writing quite a few freelance stories for the Vancouver Sun and I wrote them all in Eudora and sent my finished copy as a Eudora document.
Since 1995 I have seen a familiar pattern of sudden intimacy that generally breaks down quite quickly. Friends or relatives of mine get hooked up to the net and I suddenly get requests for detailed accounts of my life until the very minute I press-and-send. These emails are followed by jokes with hundreds of disclosed recipients and if my friend or relative is from Argentina I get inundated by the best (read worst) SPAM in the world, Argentine Spam. I think I understand.
These people who are new in the net suddenly feel that those that they communicate with are part of an "intimate" and personal community. They don't stop to think that it is a virtual community and we cannot visit them for tea. My relationship with these friends and relatives soon sours when I reply to them and all their disclosed recipients with an email that has an attached nude of questionable taste. I cannot abide by this forced sense of intimacy that I am supposed to feel by being reachable by email.
When I first started this blog I had the idea (for exactly one day) that I wanted feedback. I quickly came to realize that I was not interested in the opinions of people I did not know and I could do without comments here. I have seen to many photography forums, plant forums and otherwise excellent on line magazines like BC's The Tyee fall prey to nasty ranters who live (many do) in bleak parts of BC's interior.
While I direct the personal intimacy of my blog towards myself, my immediate family and a few friends, I have become aware that writing on a monitor screen can often be dangerous in ways that haunt us (sooner) or later. In the first election that Stephen Harper was running for prime minister I was genuinely afraid he would win. As someone who has always voted NDP I was in a moral quandary. I decided to post my decision the evening of elections in the The Tyee's, Election Night Forum. I wrote that I had photographed and taken the posters for the electoral campaigns of both Jack Layton and Ujjal Dosanjh. I liked and admired both. But with my fears that Harper could win I had decided not to vote with my heart (the NDP) but with my brain (the Federal Liberals). This was then posted by CBC National on to their TV screens that evening and I have never heard from the NDP for photography work since.
I still do not understand the intimacy of being part of Flickr or facebook. They seem to be larger versions of my friends's communities.
But there is one attribute of the web and email that I still enjoy. I am able to have good written communication (be it intimate or not) with my friends (I never send them jokes or any other type of junk) and especially with my first cousins in Buenos Aires. One of them is also my godmother and she is 85. Until we began to write via email she was a remote relative. That, she is no longer.