TBD on Ning

Have you ever noticed how in social networking, this new world, that you think you know somebody based on very little information, usually a brief post and an avatar. If the avatar is not their picture, you develop instantly a whole conception of them, vivid and detailed, whether you would like or dislike meeting them, etc. Then they post a picture of themselves, maybe a few years old, and your shocked: OMG, that is sooo not what I expected! They are white, they are gray or black or green, they are old or young, winsome, plain, big, small. You readjust your image and feel miffed that you were mislead. Their avatar was misleading in some way. Then they post a new photo - they are different yet again, and so on with each new picture. Their string of posts often jar and annoy you because they don't fit the assumptions you made. They are very religious, when they seemed ribald. They love to play, when they look fragile. They are sad, when they seem gay. They slowly reveal bits of their past; you are dismayed that they never completed college; they seemed so knowledgeable. You are excited they used to play a team sport, they seemed so inactive. And on and on.

Then, finally, you hear their voice. Or see a youtube. All that you knew is undone. In this fragile moment you must decide what to do with the carefully constructed framework of your image of them.

You meet them. You meet their family. And on and on. Ever there is change. Not once does the familar stay nestled in your mind, consistent with new information. Instead it is jostled about like an under-height kid on a wooden roller coaster. Battered and bruised, you continue to try and piece together a tapestry of the as yet unshattered facts and impressions of this person. Yet they fly from your grasp like a tattered old coat in a downpoar.

You are left with what is true: That they are beyond your comprehension. You will never know. You can never be sure. Underneath the walls we each build, there are switchbacks and surprises, circus mirrors and clown faces. We all have spent our lives layering up the image we want people to see. We've spent more time building masks than delving into the substance that is us.

No Vulcan mind-meld. Can you live with never knowing?

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Comment by JMcAul on July 21, 2009 at 6:33pm
I find it freeing and refreshing to meet people and get to know them by their words, not by their appearance. I find that by masking my identity to an extent, I am also freed to be more open about things than I might be in person towards people I have to live among, work among and raise my children among.
I think that getting to know a person online without fully experiencing their identity (at first in some cases) - we really delve into what is behind the masks we wear for protection in our daily lives. The protection allowing us to be rather vanilla in our daily interactions. The online relationships become more an exploration of our fantasy identities.
Comment by Lily Roth on July 5, 2009 at 1:00am
This all wreaks of intimacy.One has to decide how intimate they want to be with others here and in real life.
If a deep intimacy in shared reality isn't important then yes I think someone can live with never knowing.The fabrication of another is enough.And going beyond that,maybe more importantly than it being enough,it's safe.If you never really know or have any proof as to the reality of another,they can remain safely who you want and or need them to be, in the symbiosis of the relationship.Sometimes that works best and fills a shared need between two people,however unhealthy or unrealistic it truly is.



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