After stalking the twitter hashtags for the digital media subjects I am studying this coming semester (there was literally nothing, where’s the banter at??) I hopped aboard a train of some deep-ish thought – well, as deep as a stressed, exhausted, it’s-8pm-and-I’ve-worked-all-day, Nanna-says-I-lack-vitamin-D kind of person can go.
A few days ago I had a massive cull of the people I follow on Twitter (is there a shorter word for that?), just because I had upwards of three hundred, most of which were organisations I stalked in my wannabe-economist days, and people I’d never even come across. The ones I left were the category of ‘people I know’. It was then that the irony of the situation hit me; I don’t really know many of them at all.
Persona is the key word.
It doesn’t matter which realm you start from. From the physical world, beginning to talk to someone online can be kind of daunting if you don’t know them well, and online conversations never end (I’m not trying to be a creep, they just always seem half-finished and dissatisfying), so it’s a commitment I don’t generally make. You can talk to someone online and meet them in person, and feel like you’re getting to know two different people, even if their social media isn’t intentionally misleading. From the online world, seeing someone you’ve spoken to at length on Facebook in reality is really fucking weird. You have this sense that you know them,
but it’s hard to know what to say, and it feels creepy that you know them but you don’t know them. You’re not a stalker, you just know all these things about a person you’ve barely met, but they’ve told you those things so it’s also less weird, but more weird because of that (I told you this would get deep). In addition, you know the things they haven’t told you, because you casually follow their Twitter, Insta, Flickr, WordPress and whatever else, and they’ve made that stuff public. Even though that stuff has been published for free, potentially global consumption, it’s weird to admit you know it because they haven’t told you personally . . . This Gizmodo article explores the movement of a friendship from the digital to the physical realm.
Digital friendships don’t always translate seamlessly to the real world. And yet increasingly, (the) internet is how we meet people now. (Leslie Horn)
How about that person you talk to all the time then you guys just grow apart? Or have a fight? Or it’s just too awkward? Or you stop socialising because that’s just what happens sometimes? It gets more complicated when you don’t acknowledge one another but you’re Facebook friends, you follow each other on Twitter, you read his/her blog – are you friends in an alternate reality? Even if you cross the street when you see them coming, they exist in the corners of your digital universe. So long as you haven’t blocked or ‘unfriended’ them, their statuses and updates pop cheerily into your feed, which counters what may otherwise have been a very natural state of decline in a relationship.
What are the rules for the physical environment? Is it the same for the digital hemisphere? Does liking a status or a profile picture equate to a smile in a hallway? There are very different protocols and it’s too confusing for the likes of me.
HERE’S SOME PERSPECTIVE, without internet you only know what someone tells you, face to face, and all of your impressions of them form from what appears before your eyes. And, of course, what your best friend’s brother’s flatmate’s aunt knows about them, but you get the point.
To try and tie this all together, I look through the students I follow from the BCM degree and I know their faces, sometimes I feel like I understand their personality from what they post as statuses over the various platforms we use, but when I walk past the library and see one, and I know that I know who they are and they know who I am and maybe we’ve communicated briefly over social media platforms, I have this mad panic. Do I smile at them? Make eye contact? Or are we technically strangers?
I don’t know this person? RUUNNNNN. If I see someone this semester who has been in my class before, do I sit with them? Or pretend I don’t know them? Is there an in between? What’s the protocol?
I think I just need a nap.