Monday, July 31, 2006

Future Shock

Future Shock

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.

10 Comments:

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

I would leave an intelligent comment, but it's just that I can't get the that image of someone slicing open a goat's bladder out of my head.

Nice to meet you the other night.

LB

 
At 11:00 AM, Blogger E :) said...

Wow - awesome post...

 
At 11:03 AM, Blogger cuff said...

Read some baudrillard. He's reassuring and confident of what's real.

I loved this post.

 
At 12:09 AM, Blogger Velvet said...

Huh. So you met the infamous Lonnie Bruner? Very cool. You really bump into a high percentage of bloggers when you're out don't you? I'm dying to know who the dating blogger was. I can spell and I didn't have a date today, so thankfully, it wasn't me. Also, it was way too hot for me to even try to go outside today, much less attempt to be cute and charming when all I want to do is rip off my clothes and stand in a cold shower. But I digress.

I've often wondered what you said about people all seeing the "same color." Though you meant it more figuratively, I really wonder literally if we all do see the same hue.

 
At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Sweet said...

Great post, and I also find it interesting how after starting a blog, it really does add a new dimension when you meet a fellow blogger. At this point you could have read whatever it is they have written on various subjects, and have an opinion of them(or sense of 'knowing' them) before you have even introduced yourself.

 
At 2:36 PM, Anonymous tallglassofvino said...

I've only met one other blogger/friend 'in real time', and it was a strange blend of sitting with an absolute stranger, and yet being very comfortable in their presence, because you knew them.

Yes, I agree that we construct our own version of that person's persona, formed by our perception of their words. Not so different than in real life, is it?, although sped up and heavily tainted by our own imagination.

I'm going to have to look up Baudrillard, now....

 
At 4:30 PM, Blogger Dennis! said...

Blogs seem to be an effective way of putting forth whatever image you want, which apparently may or may not be what the blogger is actually like in real life. Then again, if you write a blog with the intention of coming across like an arrogant judgmental idiot, then it's hard to imagine the blogger being cool in real life....

 
At 4:33 PM, Blogger Jeff Simmermon said...

Gosh, Dennis -- hinting at all?

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Lonnie Bruner said...

Denis,

I've met Jeff in person and I can assure you that he's NOT an arrogant judgmental idiot. That's just plain mean of you to say.

 
At 3:40 PM, Blogger red storm said...

Bruner, I TOLD you he met me first!!!!

Sweet meeting you in person the other night at the Cat.

 

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