hey pretty

Ceci n'est pas une "dating blog."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Perils of Connectedness

"In this world, there's a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we've left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that's so."--Harper Pitt, Angels In America (Part Two: Perestroika),Tony Kushner

Note: This post is not about a specific person. Simply part 100,000,001 in an on-going meditation on human relationships...

Text messaging. Emails. Blogs. Social networking sites. Twittering. The unfortunate truth of the digital age is that there's most definitely such a thing as too much connectivity. You meet and befriend somebody, exchange information. Then somewhere down the line the friendship falls apart. Yet rather than simply disappearing from your life, they've left their digital footprints all over your life. In your cell phone. On your Facebook page. In the comments on your blog. In your email inbox.

I for one, always have a hard time knowing what to do with these footprints. Logic suggests that the smart thing to do is to delete them, brush them out of your way so that the sands level out as fresh they were before that person arrived. Indeed, there is a certain feeling of triumph and catharsis that comes from the moment you delete a person's number from your cell. I like to make a ritual of it--usually over brunch with a girlfriend, snapping my phone closed, punctuating the moment like an exclamation point, or at the very least a closing parenthesis. But even the act of deleting has its own subtext of hidden expectations. Perhaps this person will straighten up and fly right now that you no longer have direct access to their text message inbox. Perhaps erasing their footstep is all you need to bring them back. Murphy's Law of Digital Communications for the hopelessly optimistic. But everyone knows that you can't ever make another person do anything. That's why you're deleting them from you phone in the first place. Because they weren't fulfilling whatever role you had prescribed for them. Or vice versa.

As a relentlessly romantic and nostalgic individual, it pains me to think that people can be gone for good. As bitter as certain friendships and relationships have made me in the past, I always dwell over the good. Or rather, I dwell over that great divide that comes to exist between the good and the f'd up--how that divide came to be, what transpired before and after, what could possibly be done to make it go away. Even if there's nothing I can do about it, because again, you simply can't change other people.

Now that I have Gmail, I've made a habit of archiving old emails. Because I hate the idea of letting go altogether, and maybe because I think those old communications might possess a clue of some sort about what went wrong that I can't see now, but that might emerge with enough distance. Text messages delete themselves in time. Connections made over social networking sites are best ignored, although sometimes that's impossible. I've never deleted anybody from Friendster/My Space/Facebook. There's something so junior-high seeming about doing so. I'd like to think I can at least get along with people in the virtual world if not in real life. So some profiles I simply don't read anymore.

I have found that Facebook provides an especially sad reminder of this phenomenon, what with all the "poking" and wall-writing that it encourages. If you were to "cyberstalk" a person your punishment could be a painful reminder that they care about other people more than you. And really, who needs that?

What's the point of all this? I guess what I'm trying to get at here is the fact that certain inventions intended to bring us closer only end up alienating more in the long run. And after this fissures have errupted into full-blown chasms, they often stand as a mocking reminder of what was. The only thing to do is delete them and move on. Live a life unfettered by pixels and bytes.


Anonymous virgle Kent said...

Stepping your blog game up, I like it!

8:59 PM  
Blogger Belle said...

Excellent thinking and an excellent post.

The very thing that draws/drew us to those social networking sites and text messaging and whatnot -- the accessibility of that person, of yourself -- can also be the thing that runs you out in the end.

3:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HP, I love to follow yr goings-on, a lot of it's cos I miss DC. Six years was just enough for me to begin digging it. This great post reminded me instantly of a song from a songstress in my new hometown, check it out when you have a quiet moment. It streams or is downable: http://2005.sxsw.com/music/showcases/band/18980.html

4:24 AM  
Blogger Michael J. West said...

I was thinking about this on another level: some of the emails I've archived, these "footprints" of which you speak, have authors who have since passed on. Even when an e-mail was painful or unpleasant, I can't manage to delete them.

Sometimes, I think, HP, that it's important to have a reminder of what was--mocking or no. Your experiences sometimes have value just because they're your experiences.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i do the same thing with gmail... and i have hundreds of emails from my exboyfriend. everytime i search for something, his name appears at least 20 times and it makes me feel sick a little. sometimes i consider just deleting all of them ... but erasing that part of my life is harder than i thought.

1:59 PM  
Anonymous startingtoday said...

I have a love / hate relationship with all of this. I love that communication is so quick and instant, but I find that it's much easier for me to communicate via IM or email. I'm more able to express what I want to say. Sometimes, when I have to say something particularly emotional, or just deep, I have a hard to expressing it. I'd rather hide behind the safety of my keyoard. And that's kind of sad!

7:30 PM  

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