Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Hi, I love you, my name is Eliot.

You know the phrase "on the street"? Where you're attempting to reference a casual run-in between you and a total stranger? That phrase holds no ground in a literal setting. Because first off, when's the last time you were "on the street" to begin with? No one is ever just "on the street", unless they're in their automobile, probably with the windows closed so as to prevent others from hearing them sing like a fool. And shit, when you are on the street, how often do you talk to random people? If you see a guy doing something funny, you lean to your company (because if you walk on the street alone, let's face it, you're getting raped) and whisper about the funny man doing the funny thing. You don't tell the funny man you think he's funny, because, in turn, he might think you're weird and strange.

Do we realize that that's not how it used to be?

Communication is so vastly different than it was nine years ago. You had your two go-to options. The land line or AOL Instant Messenger IF YOU HAD IT. One was personal, the other was impersonal. You couldn't really convey exactly what you wanted to convey over AIM. So land line was often the wiser choice. Then in middle school, you all got cell phones (I had to wait until freshman year). Then it became all about being able to call anyone NO MATTER WHERE THEY WERE. That caused more social whorery than anything. You could now be out and about and still hear about the BETTER party that was happening somewhere ELSE. So you would go from place to place without having to check in with the parents from other people's house phones. Along that same time MySpace blew the world off it's feet. Now you could have a website to yourself explaining your interests and hobbies. Theoretically you could search for friends based on how much you liked their MySpace. Most of us didn't, but we did become even more blocked off from everyone else by strengthening the links enchaining our social circle. Then we realized what the hell text messaging was. That has become basically the norm for communication. THAT'S PATHETIC. With the text messaging era, the internet tide turned from MySpace to Facebook (sort of inexplicably, I guess FB was just less junior highy). And now we're left with Facebook and Text Messaging as how to communicate. You realize how devoid of personal interaction both of these mediums are?

I was walking around town the other day, "on the street" if you will, and I walked by a house that was so magnificently picturesque. The small yet expansive nature of the house combined with the blue shutters and classic architecture reminded me of the house from Up. Just the perfect little home. What made it picturesque was that the large front window had a couch up against it, with three cats sitting on it perfectly still. A powdery white older female sitting at the left end of the couch where she sat proudly looking off to something occurring to the right. A tiny kitten, striped in black and gray, laid across the middle of the couch looking up to the white cat, while another black and gray striped cat sat down on the right end of the couch, looking straight out the window. It sort of took my breath away. "I wish my house looked like that". The thing that kills me, is that a lady had parked her car out in front of the house (she was obviously the owner or at least a resident of the home) and she was bringing in some groceries she had just bought. I could have said "hi" or "your cats look pretty stoic right now on your couch like that" or "ma'am, I have been walking around for an hour now and your house is the coolest most picturesque thing I have seen. would you like some help with those bags?" And guess which one of those I said? NONE OF THE AFUCKINGBOVE. I said nothing. I looked at her, I smiled, and I walked past.

And the fact that you're probably thinking "what's wrong with that", THAT's WHAT's WRONG WITH THAT. Society nowadays interacts based on cheap glances and nervous smiles. In an unavoidable and horrifically awkward scenario in which you HAVE to say something to someone, it's usually a pre-rendered line with no substance whatsoever. "How's it going?", awkward combinations of the words "hey" and "hi", (this one's my favorite due to it's laughable awkwardness. did he just say Hey and then change it to Hi? What a bitch. I wish Conor was here.) "what's up", "hey how're ya doin?". False concern. What we mean is "occupy yourself with this question while you get the fuck out of my sight". Thankfully usually a nod and half a smile will do the trick. But if worse comes to worse, you know the champion maneuver. If the heat and tension of the moment blares down on you hotter than this globally warmed sun, you know how to dismantle the tension and make everything naive again. Whip out the phone and check the texts you know you don't have. We all do it. And it's so fucking sad.

Why can't we stand to talk to people that we don't know? Everyone we don't know isn't a rapist or drug addict, guys. Personal connection used to be normality. You couldn't get by on social circles because they weren't reinforced like they are through Facebook and the Contacts list. Getting someone's number is so much more of a dumbed down experience than it was ten years ago. Now it's just "Can I have this? Thanks." It used to be a process. Do I really want this person calling for me in front of my whole family? Is it worth the conversation that may be really weird and bad? We're so obsessed with knowing people before we meet them. In the days of yesteryear you took a chance, and that was that.

Some say communication is leaps and bounds "ahead" of where it was ten years ago. I think just the opposite. We've found a way to make communication less personal and more of an activity. My favorite example, Tina Pham has nearly 2,500 Facebook friends. You know what's remarkable about her profile? Nothing. She lists nearly no interests. Her interest is knowing who people are. And I like Tina, I think she's pretty cool. But I don't think she realizes that she doesn't really know what those people are like. And they don't really know what she's like. All they know is that Facebook is fun and having 2,500 friends must make you feel pretty damn good about yourself. Give me my top five best friends and I wouldn't trade her. Not if you threw the world in as a side bonus.

I like seeing who people really are. Not how they craft their social perception. I don't give a shit about your Facebook page. I want to know, if you and I were together, would we have a good time? Usually the answer is yes. People are so intricate and amazing in so many ways. They, first off, all have flaws. They all have likes and dislikes. Everyone thinks they're the main character of this story of life. They have so many responsibilities and emotions and goals and tendencies and wonderful characteristics that separate them from the other six billion people glued to this ball of dirt and water that we call earth.

That shit's pretty hard to convey through emoticons.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. The one thing I disagree on is that I don't think communication has regressed; I do think we've come ahead. I think it's a gift to be able to have less personal communication sometimes. A text can be used to quickly get information from someone when neither party has the time to chat on a telephone. And it's much easier to make plans to meet people when we all have cell phones with us.

    The problem comes when people use these things in a way they weren't meant to be used. Like you said, it's come to a point where texting is the primary mode of communication, which is ridiculous. But I think we have to keep in mind that these new modes of communication are, in themselves, good things; we just need to know when a phone call or a face-to-face meeting becomes necessary instead of just texting.