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Friday, November 14, 2008

We are not narcissists; we connect

I have been lucky to have witnessed two cultural revolutions. One was the advent of personal mobile phones and the other was the march of internet. You can actually say that they are one and the same i.e. increasing connectivity. But they have led an entire generation towards a cultural change and the jury is yet to be out whether it is good or bad (The cultural change not the connectivity).

There were the simple old times when you mocked anybody who had a pen-pal or anybody who developed a face-book (Yes, it was actually called a face-book with fluffy designer paper spirally bound, on which your friends scribbled what they thought of you). In today's world, if you dont have a Facebook (F for the online forum) page, it may not be far-fetched for others to brand you as a pervert loner. And if you have a blog, active or inactive, then even better for your social status. And yet, what is a blog if not an interface allowing multiple pen-friendships!

There are so many ways that this revolution impacts an ordinary man like me but most important of all, it allows me to hold multiple conversations and it allows me to talk to that aspect of a personality that I like. Let's talk a bit about this.

Every one of us has multiple aspects to our personalities. In acute cases, its scizophrenia while in moderate cases, it is called having a multi-faceted personality. In fact, in most of us, those aspects, sometimes, are so different from each other, that you could call them multiple mini-personalities attached to the same person. Now how would you talk to a person in the old world? You would likely talk to him/her in person and you would be talking to all those multiple personalities together and still you can have only one conversation at a time. Some people would call that a waste. Worse still, what if you had an argument with, say, your brother over cricket? You would simply not talk to him for weeks, not just on cricket, but on everything else. So many laughters that would go unheard, so many memories that would not be collected, so many triumphs that would not be witnessed.

In comes the connected world which offers you the ability to hold multiple concurrent conversations with the same person. You are talking to her about a book on your blog, about Arabic numerals on his blog or a picture on her Facebook profile or simply amused at his comical status message. The best part is that you get to choose which aspect of his/her personality do you want to engage in a conversation. You dont like photography, simply avoid her albums. You like his writing, pay him a compliment or better still expound upon his theories. It is almost an unwritten law that the other person will respond only on the subject you engaged them on. It is almost like that particular mini-personality has been turned on while others are put to sleep. This could be so much better as opposed to dinner-time conversations where things could go a little out of hand, at times.

To top it, all these conversations can happen at the same time. It is almost as if when you are engaged in one conversation, you forget that you have just been delivered an insult at another forum by the same person. You had a fight with your brother over cricinfo, no worries; you can still continue to play scrabulous with him on Facebook.

Despite such positives, I still prefer the simple old world where you deal with a multi-dimensional person and not with his two-dimensional cross-sections. But I would have to give in that the connectivity has definitely enhanced my experience.


Hiren Gajria said...

Couldnt agree with you more on this one. We choose what aspect we want to connect to. however i see two different cases here. First is the one where we know someone (for eg. I know Annoy) and then get connected online. On the other hand take a person who i dont know but have met only online (eg. any random stranger on Poker or Scrab).

The difference is that the theory of choosing the aspect we want to connect with applies only (atleast in my case) to the 2nd case. In the first case its just an extension of the old world connections. Hope you get what i mean.

Whats your experience on the 2 cases, im sure you have live examples.

Beta said...

Surprise, surprise. I dont have many live examples. There are only two actually; both from the blogosphere, Toddler and Annoy.

But the point I made goes beyond that. For example, here I am interacting with you on a topic chosen by me. Or I would interact with you on your blog on some article that I like. This is despite the fact that I know you personally. Online, I dont have to be accomodating to you and indulge in some far-fetched fantasy of yours (No offence intended; speaking in a general sense with you as an inadvertant example). Of course, it is not as clear-cut as a totally anonymous person but its there.

Annoymously said...

Well put, and stands for all of us.

Reminds me of a line from a std 2 Social sci text, 'Man is a social animal' which is the basis of our behaviour. We do adapt how we are to different ppl. Isn't this what separates the nice ppl from the selfish ones.. the latter would make no effort to join in a discussion they may find beneath their dignity. Why straight-jacket yourself? Am glad no one here falls in that category.

That was interesting trivia about the origins of the name of facebk, didn't know it.

Facebook & other tools of communication are a great way of keeping in touch with people one knows. Have never tried making new, unknown friends online so cannot comment on what pleasures that could hold. All my facebook pals/ acquaintances are ppl i know for real.

As a newbie anon. blogger, am held back in not being able to really send my url to everyone on facebk and that's a regret. It needs to be said that am really enjoying the the process of interaction with a complete stranger. It's a privilege to be allowed to enter a personal forum (so to speak) and simply chat. Am grateful that it's happened for me and it's making me keep the blog active. May hv died a natural death otherwise.

I still think narcissism is to be found on facebk, but yes, amongst lesser mortals. Fortunately, no one i know or don't know :) falls in that category.

Annoymously said...

Far fetched fantasy? C'mon u gotta let me know what this is about. Hiren - is this about Hamburg?

Or am i intruding on guy talk? (isn't there an icon for raised eyebrows?)

Beta said...

Now, I am curious. Whats Hamburg?

Annoymously said...

I may be wrong, but he always fantasized abt finding the perfect hamburger.