Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Social Media. Show all posts

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Casual Racism in America

As a rule of thumb I believe most people actively misunderstand what racism is.  I believe that is because they misunderstand what discrimination is.  Discrimination is the act of determining the value of one thing as opposed to another based on criteria set by the person or by the social group they adhere to. Whenever you decide that you would rather have orange juice opposed to cranberry juice this is an act of discrimination no matter the reason you decide.  We do it with all things, we make choices based on what we desire and need in that moment, or what we historically have had success with.

Discrimination is a form of discernment.  In some dictionaries it is listed as the ability to make distinctions. Psychologically it is the ability to respond differently to different forms of stimulus. The core of this is that it is the process of treating something differently than you would treat something similar.  In essence every time you make a decision that leads you to choosing one thing over something else you are actively discriminating against the other thing.  Whether it is positive or negative is strictly up to you. 

Now that we have discussed discrimination lets apply it to racism, sexism or any other ism you can think of.  In the case of racism you are deciding that one race is preferable to another.  It's not about recognizing or acknowledging race, it's about using it as a qualifier for who the entire person is in a positive or negative way.  Note that it can go both ways.  If I am asked if so and so is a certain race, it is not racist to answer.  It isn't racist to make that the only way a single person is described.  It's dehumanizing, but it is not racist unless this signifier has a positive or negative value to the person using it. When you determine that you prefer a person of a certain race over a person of another race for no other reason, or as a part of a set of reasons, that is racism.  When you decide that you like Chuck because he brings you presents and not Billy because he doesn't, that's a form of discernment that is based strictly on other designations besides the physically constructed attribute of race. Clearly Chuck is more considerate of who you are and Billy is not.  But are you going to then treat everyone named Billy badly because of it?  You shouldn't.  But in cases of racial discrimination everyone who is of a certain race somehow must answer for the supposed crimes or well intentions of everyone else in that racial group.

It gets confusing because people will make generalizations connecting an unlikable attribute to a race turning a personal preference into a racial distinction when it is not. They usually sound like this.  "I don't like Black people because they are loud." "I don't like White people because they lie."  "I don't like Asians because they drive badly."  "I don't like Mexicans because they won't speak in English."  "I don't hate Black people I just prefer White people." Yes while this may in fact be your preference, it is a racist preference. "It's not that I dislike (Insert race here) they just make me uncomfortable." Still racist. Even if you have a supporting story. This works with entire countries of people as well. "Canadians suck." "The French blow." You get the picture.

If the only way you can describe people is by the color of their skin you have made a discerning choice to acknowledge this physical attribute to the point that you cannot describe them beyond that.  This isn't really anyone's fault.  We are exposed to a constant stream of education when interacting with people on a strictly racial basis.  This is called media.  Television, movies, advertisment, music.  There is a reason why it took George Lucas 21 years to make Red Tails, the story about the Tuskegee Airmen.  Even though they are American heroes they were black first and the words black and hero have a low amount of association in media. In general audiences aren't conditioned to accept this. It calls into question whether the movie will be accepted by a mostly white America and an American culture exposed world who have been conditioned to believe that black means criminal in the most negative and perhaps athlete or musician in the most positive.

The key is in being able to actually confront this reality within yourself and determine how to best combat this. Like all things the first step is acknowledging that this is happening.  No one is innocent.  There is no such thing as not seeing race.  Which is why it's so funny when Stephen Colbert says it.  We are citizens of a country whose actions have always somewhat hinged on race.  Since the founding fathers came here and determined that true Americans were one special kind of white and everyone else was either an issue to be eradicated or property to be owned. All of us, myself included are racists in some form or fashion.  We all have some preference whether we admit it or not.  I'll start; my preference is to not have a core of friends who are all one 'race' or ethnicity.

When someone asks me about someone I know and they mention race as the first thing to describe them it takes me a moment to actually remember that this person is of this 'racial' group.  This is because I have identified them as many other things so race becomes a none functional descriptor. Their race has not made them compassionate, intelligent, or funny.  Their personality, their perspective, and their humanity have done that.  When race is the only descriptor I question the ability of the person to understand that human beings are separate from what they are 'racially' known as which is a constructed instance.  In essence a fantasy casing that allows a person to not acknowledge who they are underneath. It is the laziest form of human interaction.

But this casing rears its ugly head a lot more than I think I'm comfortable with in this day and age. All the sunshine and hugs aside the fact is there are still a lot of people operating under assumptions about others based on race. The differing definitions on casual racism being part and parcel to this. How funny are racist jokes supposed to be?  I'm not wondering about this.  I'm honestly wondering if we are socially mature enough to understand the difference between ironic racial joking and masked judgment based on racial stereotyping.

One of the most annoying things I've had to confront is the effect casual racism has on building relationships because so many of us are not sure what is acceptable and what is not.  At first glance it would seem like a no brainer.  Of course you as a person of color cannot care for or truly love someone who is a casual racist.  That is unfortunately a lie. If you yourself are not restricted by skin color, religion, or background as crucial factors to love you see potential in every relationship no matter the circumstances. The issue usually stems from the other person being unaware of how much of a problem they actually have.  The worst is the person not believing it is in fact a problem or misunderstanding their own reactions and thoughts.

There are just day to day aggressions that are hard to understand.  Certain populations get it.  Those who experience religious or nationality discrimination. Thoughtless assumptions based on being a Muslim.  The way most Latino populations get generalized as being from Mexico.  Canadians get their fair share of "but you're not American" guff.  It’s all part and parcel to a bigger idea which is part and parcel to our value system. Methods to determining the deserving and the none deserving. Casual discrimination.

I don't believe casual racism is the unmitigated hate of another group of people.  Casual racism, like all forms of casual discrimination, is more subtle.  Usually it is defined as being humorous in nature and not truly an indication of a deeper problem with racism. However it is usually on the same lines as class elitism, religious, ethnic and nationality superiority. If someone constantly makes jokes about bums and poor people you consider them a snob or elitist.  If someone is constantly downing another country they are also considered a snob or elitist.  Yet if it is racially or culturally based they are not a racist because they have not let this propel them into acting violently towards that race.  Or even worse they are allowed because there are considered a member of the racial community they are discriminating against. This is inconsistent because this humor represents the way the person thinks and how their mind functions.

The truth is that they are racist but they cannot stand to bare the stigma that this designation carries in society. As consumers of media we have to be able to recognize when something is being displayed as satiric irony or as truthful masking of discriminating dogma in entertainment and especially in our own lives.

Social media has manifest two things.  Our shameless desire for self-promotion and our still exiting issues with discrimination. While there is shame in being racist there shouldn't be in being honest.  Some people just are and there shouldn't be this get out of being a racist failsafe. Like any other illness of society it should be dealt with and the only way it can be is to acknowledge it. I don't believe discrimination can ever truly be weeded out of the human spirit, but we should be able to deal with it and lessen its effects on the ability of people to prosper and follow their dreams.

The criminal justice system is supposed to rehabilitate criminals not just store them to keep them away from 'good' people. Yet we as Americans have the highest imprisoned population in the world as repeat offenders find it difficult to live life on the outside because they have been so conditioned to being social outcasts. The ignoring of this population just creates a cycle that grows instead of shrinks. We have a tendency to lock up the problem and not deal with it appropriately.  Racism is starting to look like a prison to me as we desperately try to convince ourselves and each other that it doesn't exist and doesn't factor in the outcomes of affected populations. While it is not as detrimental as it once was, it has not dissipated enough that we can declare it has no power here.

The foundation of all forms of discrimination is based on a thought regarding the worthiness or acceptability of another option other than the one the person considers to be the best.  Casual racism is an indication of a belief that a race of people are better or more acceptable than another because of the attributes the discrimination enables. It is the blind acceptance that certain human traits can be defined by race. Thus it makes certain behaviors acceptable and expected and allows the claim that not associating with certain people is a simple preference and not indicative of being racist.  It allows people to use racist jokes, stereotypes and ideologies without guilt and become defensive of consequence if anyone takes it too seriously.  After all it was not serious.  It was only a casual observation that is not indicative to a bigger problem. As they say there is some truth to every 'just kidding'.

A causal racist is not truly the evil person we would like to paint them to be.  They are usually good people who are just painfully oblivious to their bias. They are the people who will see an obvious violently racist situation, condemn it as wrong, but then still lock their doors or clutch their belongings tighter if they see a person of color coming near to them. They don't really disagree with the prejudice, they disagree with the violence.

They are the people who will congratulate interracial couples for their bravery and then quietly admit that they could never do what they have seen done. They have developed a value system that has determined that knowing and caring for a person of a different race and culture is not worth the problems commonly associated with mixed race relationships.  They have determined that this group of people are less in value and not worth truly considering.  This is an act of racism, determining that a certain person cannot attain your affection with race or skin color being the only deterrent. These people tend to assume that being a little racist isn't really a problem because everyone is. It then becomes an accepted condition of human nature.

The issue is that we as humans do not react automatically as a natural reflex of nature in these situations.  We respond the way we have been conditioned to. We have a tendency to accept well-conditioned responses as byproducts of human nature.  Let me clarify, they are.  We follow patterns and notions to their obvious conclusions and we are constantly trying to find ways to streamline our processes.  Our natures require us to complete the pattern because this is how we associate to the world. However it is not human nature to dislike or distrust someone because of their differences from us. That is a conditioned response.

I've had friends of different races confront this in their children as they are being raised.  The concerns are that their children have to some degree at very young ages developed a distrust of people of color they have not frequently interacted with.  The same holds true for children of color with other races. When I first meet a child who is less than a year old, no matter their race they have no preconceived notions of what is good or bad. They simply stare trying to absorb what they see. As the child develops and you begin to teach it to discern from right and wrong they identify with their parents and who their parents' trust. As soon as you introduce the word no or prevent a child from doing something that is bad for them they begin to associate everything from that perspective until they have more to work with. 

Children aren't in a bubble. They see what we see and they associate life according to what you present them and how you respond to certain situations. There are occasions where life prevents certain associations.  But in more cases than not any aversions your children have to race has been supported by your actions. Which in turn is more than likely unresolved issues from your parents instilling these values in you. We forget that less than 60 years ago we still had wide spread segregation. In many communities and areas we still do and our knowledge of other cultures is embarrassingly incomplete considering our role in their economies.

I suppose the issue comes with severity. People have an unconscious thought regarding "acceptable" levels of racism. But it really can't be parsed out like that. You can't acceptably kill someone.  You either kill them or you don't. In many cases the attempt is punished just as harshly as the success. By practice people do not congratulate a person for not sexually abusing a child or comment on their bravery.  Like in all situations there are exclusions but as a general rule of thumb it sounds absurd.  It is expected that this is unacceptable by societal standards. 

Racist laws were repelled because life couldn't work that way. You can't be somewhat right and somewhat wrong when it comes to civil liberties.  It’s why so much gray is entering debates about healthcare, rape, and marriage. People want to determine absolute right and wrong by too many degrees as it suits their needs. They are making a basic argument about the details because we've trained ourselves to be overly discerning when contemplating right and wrong. We believe the jest is in the details as opposed to the big picture. It’s because we have only dealt with our problems as particular instances and not as a whole. We patch the bridge instead of building a new one.  We fix one little spot without examining the cause and effect making only temporary progress.

So that leaves us telling people don't be racist while supporting a system that insists they do. So in the meantime mixed race children are still being forced to define themselves by a narrow margin of one race when they are more. Legal systems still convict people of color at higher rates even though more whites get arrested. Our media still grossly underrepresents or misrepresents people of color and none American cultures. Pay rates are still different, housing is still subpar and education is still poorly funded for areas with higher people of color populations.  With these examples and the insistence that America's racial troubles have subsided confusion regarding race is at an all-time high. Even 'good, proactive' so called none racists still have trouble understanding what is and is not racist. 

This issue presented itself again over the Super Bowl as many people were up in arms about a 'disrespectful racist' commercial by Volkswagen where they had people of multiple visual ethnicities speaking with a standard "Jamaican" accent. The protesters of this were mostly white and they thought they were being racially sensitive by condemning VW when in actuality they just highlighted how big of a problem their protest represents. The issue is that Jamaica is a country with different races like all countries of the world.  Because no one in the commercial appeared to be "Jamaican" in the eyes of the protesters, the assumption was that it was racially insensitive, when in actuality the assumption that all Jamaicans have dark skin and certain features IS racist. The commercial was actually representing cultural diversity that is usually not represented when we pull to mind images of Jamaicans. Being Jamaican is a nationality, not a race. But the imagery compared to the sound was so 'foreign' and uncomfortable to viewers that they were upset by it and in assuming they themselves were not racist they inadvertently proved that they were.

The problem is the casual nature of racism in America.  It stems from an idea that we can't help but to dislike each other because of racial differences and it breeds ideas about children and how they have to choose what to be. It’s in hidden messages we give each other as we either support or begrudgingly accept a situation. If racism called down the same horror and outrage as child abuse or animal neglect we as Americans wouldn't be so casual about it. The issue is people are not forced to feel any substantial amount of shame for their racist thoughts or none violent actions as often as they should be. The problem is twofold.  Its people comfortable being racist and people comfortable being discriminated against. The combination creates a chain of inequity that will continue indefinitely.

The sea of casual racism places a person being discriminated against in an odd damned if you do damned if you don't position. If you decide to confront racism you are propagating the problem by talking about it and if you don't you are propagating the problem by not talking about it.  It has truly become a no win situation because of the nature of victim blaming.  It matters not what the action of the victim is, they will always be the one blamed for the outcome.

Racism in America is in many ways the trick the Devil played on the world.  Most people would like to pretend it doesn't exist so they accept the lie of post raciality.  However if you are not frequently discriminated against it was just a saying you could agree with because you don't have personal proof to counter the assertion.  A surprising amount of people can willfully ignore the obvious signs of it happening to other people.

The good thing is that more and more conversations like this blog are starting to happen.  More people of color are realizing that just saying we are post racial and accepting the brunt of the ugliness is not enough.  And because of it more people not of color find themselves agreeing and following suit. It’s time to point out all the ways we are not. And perhaps the truth will eventually set us all free.

Images Courtesy of:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Revenge . . The Dish Best Not Served

Television Show
I think as a culture we have a fascination with revenge.  We like the idea of the bad guy getting their just desserts. It’s a common theme in film, television, literature, and all forms of media.  Our stories are built on determining who is the good guy and who is the bad guy.  We like being able to assign blame and fault.  We like being right. And oh we love to see the outcome of such acts.  It's this subconscious verification that the universe does doll out the appropriate payment for certain actions.  Even though we know life isn't fair we are constantly seeking proof to the contrary.  So much so that we ourselves are willing to do the dirty work if the Universe seems stalled.

The only issue with this is that too often in our daily lives we can manufacture villains when there are not any.  We can seek someone who we feel deserves revenge when the only faults they truly have are being human. 

Being human is a tricky thing and what I feel provides most of the trouble.  We are in truth simple dumb beasts in a lot of ways.  We just so happen to also be very clever ones. We have encased ourselves into our environment in a way that makes it easy to forget that. Our ideas are shaped by our environment and culture.  We are easy to program through media and being constantly plugged in.

Brain Processing
Many studies have proven that being constantly inundated with specific patterns of thought and ideas has a lasting effect on how we view and deal with the world. Only with a lot of work can this be altered or even deterred.  Even so, exposure to any form of media for a long period of time has a lasting effect.

I think of how stories from the Bible have influenced the creation of our society and developed laws. From the creation of fairytales and how they have shaped thoughts and ideas about male and female relationships to how the voyeuristic nature of reality TV has created this subsection with this social media explosion we are currently in the middle of. We are constantly being influenced on how to think, what to think, and what to believe.

What terrifies me is how few people understand that in reality there is a very specific core group of individuals that get to decide what type of influences we get. Thus they are shaping the world in their image.  Slowly filling all of our minds with what they want humanity to be. What you see is what they want you to see, and how they want you to see it. In many ways the explosion of social media is the only thing that is breaking through the illusion cast by forms of organized media. However it is through this lens we can sometimes clearly see the effect of other forms of media on our thinking.

Social Media and the Brain
There are fascinating bodies of work being built based on social media sites and the things people feel comfortable expressing on them.  Clearly we see our culture and its concerns with discrimination, equality, and finance.   We live in a world where by a chance of bonding in a statement that is only 144 characters long a nobody can speak to a media icon. A world where 1000s of miles can vanish and you can have a face-to-face conversation through a machine. With our innovations however our basic make-up and what we need in a story or a plotline has not changed, just the way we deploy it.

But isn't this really the problem.  A lot of who we are as humans has not changed.  And now we can see ourselves clearly.  And even more impressive future generations will be able to catalogue some of our lives in intimate detail because we have become intimate with our communication methods and devices. We have not actually grown into our technology, it has grown despite us. And I believe it will inevitable force us to grow as we are creating a symbiotic union with technology.

Previous versions of humanity never had what we now have, a true reflection of the soul.  It began millennia ago with art, the need to create. It wobbled its first steps with the development of religion, absolute truths that we made ourselves believe so that we could learn to think. It matured in government, policy, and the creation of a ruling class. It manifest in social groupings, nationalities, our ability to separate used to extreme discretion. Its focus narrows in communities, chosen professions, supply and demand systems to fulfill our own wants and needs. And it completes the circle coming back to one and the reflection is finally clear, each moment documented and preserved by a system that unlike us will not forget our history.  Finally forcing us to not do the same.

I know what you're thinking, revenge is the topic. True but we can't delve into revenge until we understand perspective.  This plays a crucial role in determining what actions deserve to be avenged. Everyone has a point of no return action that takes mild mannered you and replaces it with bug ass nuts Batman. For most people it involves any hurt coming to loved ones whether on purpose or not.

The Question
The issue is that almost everything negates the thought that accidents are blame free. It negates that sometimes $#!& happens. While there are cases of obvious negligence, sometimes accidents just happen and yet we need to find fault. If not there wouldn't need to be so many lawyers on TV advertising their services for accidents. Clearly they can afford advertising it's a profitable business.  But why?  The need to assign blame, fault, and ultimately gain revenge.  The just desserts of the bad guy.  Because for humans bad things can't just happen. Someone has to make them happen.  And in a decent amount of cases this is true.  But not all of the time. Sometimes things are inexplicable and we should be damned glad that they are.

What is really gained?  A sense of satisfaction for setting right a wrong? What validation is the revenge seeker getting?  Well clearly how our society views this is at work.  We are social creatures, and the smug sense of knowing that you did 'the right thing' by the standards of others is sometimes too hard to resist, and is usually a good thing. 

The Crow
But the concept of revenge has usually been the deed of a villain not a hero. However our society has developed the anti-hero.  The concept that the bad guy can now be the good guy.  I believe this is a reflection of humanity coming to terms with itself. Now that our mirrors are so clear we can't be coerced to forget, and the little slips in history can't be covered like it was hundreds of years ago.  We have only been told noble stories of noble past deeds.  The truth is most likely closer to what we can now see.

The truth is, no one can be all good all of the time.  We all fall, we all are capable and sometimes unknowingly wrong someone.  But in a world where even accidents can be blamed on someone, you no longer have good guys.  You just have people making mistakes so tales of atonement become pressingly more popular. We can't be perfect, but the world still has to be fair.  You must pay your dues and gain atonement. Black and white is torn asunder and you are left with multi-tonal gray. 

Gray feels messy, unbalanced.  Shocking when the world used to be so stark.  It confuses you, it makes you uncomfortable.  The lines before were so very clear and now not at all. Eventually you realize black and white was too binding, gray is an excellent color. 

And Always
Gray accounts for mistakes, accidents, and well-intentioned mishaps.  It opens the door to no one being denied forgiveness or salvation. In gray is all of our hopes and dreams, true acceptance among each other. 

Gray doesn't really need revenge. Revenge is a residual response from those black and white days. Gray just needs solutions to existing problems.  You aren't being held accountable for anything but your own actions. And even those can be managed.  Give time a shot at it, amazing things happen in time. Because somewhere along the way of our journey to what we are now, time somehow managed to show us that.
Glorious Shades of Gray

And Always courtesy of

Brain Processing courtesy of

Social Media and the Brain courtesy of

The Crow courtesy of

Glorious Shades of Gray courtesy of

The Question courtesy of

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Socialization in the Time of Social Media

Today my word for the day was serendipitous.  So I thought a play on the title of the book that Kate Beckinsale wrote her phone number in for the movie "Serendipity" was appropriate.  It was called "Love in the Time of Cholera".  I'll let you sort out what I mean.

Relationship Status
Facebook status goes from "in a relationship" to "single".  Like me I know you've seen this byline in your Facebook timeline.  It makes me miss the days when your relationship status wasn't public property.  Not that it is by any means, but some days the way social media works you think you are obligated in some way to tell the world this unfortunate truth.

I must admit that after my marriage ended it was somehow empowering to go into one of my media networks and boldly go from "married" to "single".  It was more than just a declaration to the people who knew and loved me.  It was a declaration to myself.  Somehow making that one move put me on the path to understanding why I was in the situation I was in and how I could avoid returning there in the near future.

Love and Hate
I have a love hate relationship with social media.  I see it's potential in bridging the gaps between people and I also see the possible destruction from making so much of your existence not as private as it used to be.  I'm a Generation X'er.  By nature we are more skeptical while being opportunistic.  It has a lot to do with being raised by Baby Boomers and their changing value systems.  I think the irony of this is that no one has embraced social media like the generations that flank us.  Those being our Baby Boomer parents (well not mine, but some of us) and our Millennial understudies.

For those wondering, the Millennials are the generation of people who are being born with the Internet as a part of their lives.  The constantly 'plugged-in' set while us Gen X'ers are mostly involved yet quite on the fence with our involvement.  We see the opportunity social media creates, but we are somewhat fearful of the loss of self for the cause.  I see it all of the time as my generation picks and chooses what social media outlets will hold their time and attention, and which ones they just can't be bothered with because it's that step too far.

Live Journal
I think back to the days of high school crushes and random childhood gossip, and I see the implications for what could've been if every time someone in my cliché 'broke-up' it became social fodder.  And I find myself grateful that there isn't an archive somewhere of my high school follies.  I know a lot of people a little younger than me that can't say the same thanks to LiveJournal.  But it brings me face to face with the changing tide of how technology has affected how we perceive and feel about human relationships.  With the ability to make your relationship a matter of public media, you risk affecting the intimacy that good relationships can cultivate.  I find myself wondering if you can also increase it.

Words are powerful things.  I should know I'm a writer : ) And I often prefer writing someone and not telling someone because my written word is always going to be more eloquent, direct, and poignant than my spoken words.  I just don't think in speech like I think in written word.  So I can write tantalizing love letters and flowing poetry yet have the damnedest time getting those words out of my face.  It leaves me to wonder which face is my true face.  What is it about captured language that makes it a preferable option to me and apparently to many of the people in our tech world today who prefer text messaging to phone calls.

I have often read things friends have said to me as a comment on Facebook and I wondered at the authenticity of it.  But not in the way you might think.  My friends have written some of the loveliest sweetest things I've ever read about myself to the point that I have been moved to tears. I know these people well and they know me and I wonder if we were face to face would they reveal that much of their true feelings about me or if the specter of the screen and the loose feeling of anonymity have somehow changed the nature of the discourse.  Has being able to channel these feelings through a source that can feel as intimate as a computer can sometimes opened a door to a true core of emotion that maybe unrealized in any other way.

I know that I have stated true feelings through this medium to other people that I would never have the gall to say to their face and I wonder why.  In those moments of typing as I stared at the words as they hit the page I knew that not telling the truth would be like lying to myself.  And at every turn as I read my own words the lie of it would become unbearable and the message would be left unsaid . . . unsent.

Beyond that personal belief, it was the freedom of knowing that I can get my thoughts out without instant rejection because of response time.  When you state things to someone's face you see instantly how well received or not well received they are.  At least with awkward silence there is a sense of accomplishment because you can't be sure about how someone has taken your commentary, but you can be sure that you made your position clear.

We are a society accustomed to speaking over each other.  In ordinary conversations the person who has the most aggression will usually be heard over all while the meeker participants will be overshadowed.  However in the written word, in an online chat sense, everyone has a position of potential equal say.  Like nothing else, written messages demand that the normal call and response procedures of communication be adhered to.

If you're like me then there is nothing you hate more than an unanswered message.  The very nature of sending a message calls upon habits that should be ingrained by any participant in 'polite' society.  If someone has taken the time, energy, and effort to communicate with you, you at least owe them an acknowledgement of the effort. Often in face to face conversations the subject can be rerouted, changed, and ultimately ignored as you substitute surrounding incidents for current 'undesirable' conversation.  However it is hard to deny a message.  It is almost like a receipt.  The sender and the recipient know this took place and how they choose to deal with it usually determines the level of care and regard you give the person because they have stated the level of care and regard they hold for you. These are all factors that would aid in understanding the level of involvement you can or cannot have with another person.

In a relationship my partner will get both.  I'll say the words I'm thinking, and then reinforce them with poetry, cards or other little notes of affection.  But does this create its own from of intimacy without the content of being there in person?  I imagine my lover can look at the words on a screen or page and then remember how I smell, my smile, how I look at them, how I touch them. Written words can touch, but they can't feel.  They can imply, but they can't determine. Beyond that, they bare more weight when they are private, and not made available for prying eyes.

How does one create intimacy through a social media?  Is this something that is even remotely possible?  Studies have shown that people make judgment calls on others based on some of their social media choices yet I'm not always sure if reposting a cute kitten picture is the best identifier for a person.  Memes have been dedicated to the insensitive things people are willing to say from the safety of a computer screen yet there haven't really been any that talk about what people feel are inappropriate matters to be discussed in an online format.  All is open for discussion apparently.

It is very easy to find a blog post or site where people come together to discuss their heartbreak and what they are going through.  Love in the digital age has become more digital than social.  What was once something between 2 people and their closest friends and relatives has become searchable by the masses.  In many ways it does remind us that we are all the same.  But in other ways it stamps out those wonderful fundamental differences.  In the end, this is another face we place on just like any other.  How is this relationship, picture, status a true indication of the person that speaks about it?  How is this reflection to be perceived?  At face value or as a characteristic of something that is more evolved than previously thought.

This face is one that can be constructed to a larger degree than any other face.  I like experimenting with look, style, and perception.  My photos are a clear indication of that.  I like playing with the idea that with a few simple changes I can become or appear to be someone other than who I am.  Well I think online characterization can be taken a full step beyond that.  What is real and what isn't?  Who is real and who isn't becomes more of a concern than in face-to-face encounters.  As we become overwhelmed by our own creations and they start to bleed into the reality of who we really are, who is to say that this is not who we really are now.

The key to understanding online personas is understanding the nature of the beast.  The internet, while it was originally created as a means for academics to communicate with each other, has become a venue of entertainment.  People online have to be taken with a grain of salt because more than anywhere else, you are being sold something.  It doesn't matter where you are, in a chat room, playing Xbox live, on a dating site, or just browsing news stories, someone wants you to 'buy' something.  Either that they care, don't care, that their view is correct, or this angle is the truth.  And in many cases they want your money. 

At our very base level we are a nation of con artists. It's called capitalism and the bottom line is gain. Is it no wonder each generation is able to instantly spot what will garner the best advantage and then take it?  At our most enlightened we are a nation of Buddhists abandoning the suffering of trade for altruism.  Deciding that the only way to stifle the will of capitalism is to disavow it.  But most of us are somewhere in the middle trying to make a worthwhile existence for ourselves and those we love.  So how does online interactions facilitate this is what I'm asking?  How does one go from being a stranger to being a friend through a social media site?

I think in the end it's like with all things.  You regard someone and recognize the traits they have in common with you.  Through this you build up a repoire, and then over time you become accustomed to their ways and methods of communicating.  Who they are has no choice but to present itself.

Beyond not writing things in all caps, online etiquette is this unrelenting, unestablished hierarchy of mismatched rules and sometimes lacking in manners rhetoric.  It is up to the person to decide what constitutes as real human interaction, and what is just a pale reminder that the object before us is only a machine with parts instead of heart.

The real issue is that sometimes people make the mistake of believing that the people on the other end of the line are just as unfeeling as the machine they are using to communicate with when the exact opposite is true.  Usually on the other end is someone who is all too human and for whatever reason needs the parts to help them declare and expose their heart.  It would be a shame if we as other human beings suffering the same fit weren't available to help them understand the difference between cold unemotional parts and moments given from the heart.

(Dedicated to all those who have never left me hanging ; )

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