I was at the Black Cat the other night (this is the nation's capital, home base to the Axis Powers of WWIII and there's really only two bars to go to) with my friend from work and some of her friends from jobs past. After thirty, you don't make friends unless they're your coworkers, neighbors, or they're couples that you and your lady can hang out with and talk a little trash on afterwards.
I digress. So my friend from work introduces me to her friend who looks a lot like my friend Heather in LA. I met Heather when I was in college, back when you could just make friends without needing an excuse or a getting a paycheck. And, as another aside, there are 6 or 7 billion people on earth (half of whom were waiting for a drink at the Black Cat) and only a million or two different kinds of faces. So it's natural that one person would look a lot like another. But that wasn't it -- my friends' friend looked so familiar it was making the back of my brain itch.
I automatically began flipping through the Rolodex of faces in my head, Robocop-style, glowing green crosshairs matching over eye shapes, lip curves, the way her nose's shadow fell on the "angel's thumbprint" under her nose -- the match was blurry at best.
"Maybe I just know you from MySpace" I said. "Yeah, that's probably it," she replied. "Or, I have a blog that's on the DC Blogs Feed." That was the match. I knew her from her blog and from MySpace.
Then this guy comes up to me. We chat for a bit, then he starts freaking. Out. Hard. "I know this guy, I know this guy!" He can't stop hollering about it, pumping my hand up and down the whole time. I had no idea who this was.
Turns out he's been leaving really positive comments on my blog for months -- he's a fan! I'm a fan, too -- nice to meet you in real life, Lonnie. We talked about sailing, stuff I'd written, I bitched about the DC Blog scene... We bonded. It was awesome.
Then I'm in the coffee shop today and I see this couple sitting at a table. The guy is talking excitedly, he's got the nervous flow of a guy stoked to be on an early date -- and the woman is leaning in and listening, smiling. I recognize her. I'd know her face anywhere. She has a blog that I freaking HATE, where she describes in intimate, poorly spelled detail how she chews men and passes them on like so many husks of corn in a pig's shit. And I can't help but think "I may think I know her from the internet, but he DEFINITELY doesn't."
And then I think again -- it's been a good several months since she updated that blog. Maybe she's learned since then, or she's trying to turn a corner. Or maybe he doesn't care. Maybe I've got no business at all thinking I know something about someone based on their life online. Most blogs are hasty, scribbled sketches of a moment in time. MySpace profiles are just collections of likes and dislikes. We color those sketches with our own imaginations, and who's to say that we're always right?
What color is green to a colorblind person? Can I be sure that the blue I am seeing has the same vivid hue as the blue the people on my "friends list" sees?
The fabric of reality is gauzy and permeable as hell. We're experiencing a major culture shift right now, a serious future shock. We get more information about people and their ideas on a daily basis than ever before, and there's no way it can't be influencing our lives. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad -- but it's just pixels on a screen playing into our own prejudices and hopes, enhancing our own mind's ability to make judgments and jump to conclusions. There is no real, just warring perceptions and the winner of the war on reality is the one with the most followers.
I need someone to tell me I'm wrong and tell me I'm not paranoid. But they've got to do a pretty convincing job of it... because as much as I want to believe it, I don't think it's true.