Writing for a blog when you know some of its readers know you in the real world is a strange place to find yourself. The usual anonimity of the internet suddenly disappears and a person becomes responsible for their virtual actions as much as thier real-world ones.
Theres a difference between understanding that the people online are real breathing people and really knowing it. We all say we know it, we genuinely think we know it as well, but I wonder about this. I wonder because knowing a person online isn’t the same as knowing them is reality, it simply isn’t as much as we want to believe it is.
Theres that old chestnut about 70% of communication being non-verbal for a start, can we really say we know someone with whom only 30% of communication with them is in any way reliable?
Then theres the fact that humans don’t tend to tell the whole truth. This isn’t to say we are all liars, truth and lies are not the only sides to this particular equation. Perception comes into it and state of mind does too, then theres how mindful we are of ourselves and how much we know of our own souls.
Theres an old saying (offhand I don’t know who said it), “if you are not entirely to your own liking then how can you ever expect others to be?”
The permutations of these ideas are quite far reaching when they’re analysed.
The reason my mind is going down this particular route is that I am working on this community server idea and many of the people in the network are people I know in the real world. This means that many of my world experiences feature in part people who are reading this, right at this moment, now as you read.
I don’t see myself as a dishonest person, generally speaking I try to tell the “truth” (or my own view of it at least); but the idea that the world who knows me is somehow peeking into my mind is an unnerving one.
Because in a very real way that is whats happening with this blog.
People who have been reading it from its start (all those, what… ten posts ago?!) may or may not understand how much of what I write is a genuine attempt to get something from myself. To understand something about me that I struggle with as I write.
A long time friend kept a diary for many years, and as we were friends I was mentioned in this diary quite a few times. Recently in our conversations some of these appearences has been read out to me, warts and all, and I’ve found the experience of listening to the candid opinions of my younger self to be a turbulent mixture of unsettling, amusing, embarassing and irritating. Though most of all its been very, very interesting.
Some of the encounters I remember, some are like dreams and I’m not sure if they happened to me or not (perhaps my memory of them is just the memory of hearing them?), then others (very few actually, disturbingly few) I remember. I begin to wonder if he made up a story and presented it as fact whether I would know the difference, I think about this idea and I begin to profoundly understand that memory isn’t at all etched in stone, but etched in the soft flesh of the brain; and this flesh grows and changes.
So some I remember, as little or as much as that means, in some cases this brings on the sting of embarrassment and other times a dull irritation. What it really brings to my attention; the thing that eclipses the pain, humiliation and occasional smile raised by the memories: is the understanding that I didn’t really know my friends and that they really didn’t know me.
Perhaps my state of mind were too dissimilar to theirs, or perhaps in my youth I was too busy struggling with the man I was growing to be to be fully aware of those around me; and it seems fair to assume that we were all in a similar boat at the time.
I suppose its unusual that someone who quantifies himself as an “outsider” is able to read (by proxy in this case) a view of what they seemed like from another persons perspective. Of course this was a diary, and one of the perculiarities of diaries is that they tend to chronicle the bad in favour over the good. A diarist would always rather make a record of the vitriol of thier life, its the way of things I suppose, the process of recording it an attempt to understand and control.
In many ways exactly what I am doing writing some of the more esoteric posts in this blog. Something happens I don’t entirely understand so I write about it in an attempt to understand; the only differences being is that what I am trying to understand is inside me, and that my version of a diary is anythig but private.
So how do I feel about these little snippets of someones view of me from twenty years ago?
They don’t paint a very flattering picture, sometimes I think this is unfair, othertimes I think that I was unfair in my actions. Then other times I realise the reasons for my bevahiour was incomprehensible to those around me, and even when I did something for the right reasons, all that could be seen were bad.
I could easily go on… I could talk about how dark my world was and how I truly didn’t want to be a part of it, or how my absences from the group were sometimes meant as a blessing to the group rather than a dismissal of it. I suppose that much of what I would say could be looked over as the angst of youth, and the melodrama associated with it.
But I won’t continue… and do you know why?
Because memory is fleeting and the past only happened in your mind, ultimately what it left you with is more important than our memories often faulty version of it.
Perhaps I was a bad person, a poor excuse for a son, or a friend who was to be endured rather than liked. Perhaps I was all the opposite to that, but it doesn’t matter either way. Something else is more important…
What did it leave me with; and what am I now?