In a recent article published in Issues in Science and Technology – and repurposed here as “A Survival Plan for the Wild Cyborg” – Rinie van Est offers seven rules for managing the exponential influx of technology into our lands, our lives, and our bodies.
As a strong believer in the power of connectivity to, well, connect, I admired the article for the ways in which it used common sense to advise caution and protection against the potential for exploitation by commercial ventures. But this is really only one half of the matter at hand.
Whilst our collective interaction with (and through) the internet seems to be on the increase, I see no reason why it should automatically depersonalise us (as seems to be one underlying concern of the article) and render us unable to maintain the know-how required for face-to-face interaction. I utterly agree that the processes of loving, parenting, caring for and killing should all be done in person, because the one thing the internet lacks (and which ¾ of those actions require) is touch.
We are fundamentally designed to respond to (wanted) touch – whether it is the caress of a lover, the kissing-on-the-forehead of someone who lies bed-bound, or the smooth-smooth-smoothing of a mother’s tireless hands as she comforts her child – our bodies are set up to generate oxytocin; a feel-good brain-hormone we can get in no other way.
We need more than just touch – our hearts, emotions and minds do not have to be reached via our skin, and friends can come in all forms – the e-version of a friendship can be absolutely as encouraging, hilarious, exciting, meaningful and comfortable as the IRL counterpart.
Some might struggle to equate the deeply consequential pen-friendship (of yore days, when letters were the most efficient way to keep up) with those comprised of dashed-off emails and quick tweets in between workday tasks, but I think they’re wonderful. The instant, constant, high-functioning-interactivity of social media is a wonderful way to ball up a geographical divide and slam-dunk it into the rubbish bin.
Perchance the e-friend might become better acquainted with the ins and outs of your life, by virtue of seeing it unfurl in front of them, across your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Blog updates, and through responding, can be part of it; perhaps with higher levels of support and responsiveness than ‘offline’ friends, whose face-time interactions may be more sporadic.
And as to getting to know the person behind the screen (we’ve all been warned about the crusty, 50 year old potato-farmer from Idaho, posing as a young, tempting English girl…); you can see their pictures, hear their voices on the phone, even pick up their mannerisms and movements via vlogs or video chats – there’s no reason for ‘The Screen’ to be a barrier.
There’s no two ways about it: these friendships are real and significant, and in these times where there seem to be so many more divisive forces at work than in the letter-writing days, isn’t the ability to make friends across cultures and distances all the MORE important?
There are 7 billion people in this world, and the more personal connections each of those people has – reminding us that in a way, we all belong to each other – the better.
And on that note, it is time.
The next round of Hardwired Heart awards (if you’ve been around long enough, you’ll remember this one – if it’s new to you, enjoy.)
1) Nominate as many people as you like – but you have to say WHY they mean so much to you. Declare it proudly and shout it from the rooftops.
2) If you receive one, try to pass it on to at least one other person – keep the connectedness going.
Laura (History of a Woman) – who talks to me, so much, even when drunk; who writes beautiful poetry, wonderful stories, and sometimes lets me join in. We bonded immediately over the appropriate placement about one’s person of an emergency fork, and have never looked back. One of the very few occasions I’ve ‘fallen in friends’ so quickly, and the more I get to know her, the more certain I am that my gut instinct was right on the money – this one’s a keeper 🙂
Mandi (Cellulite Looks Better Tan) – still thanking my lucky stars that I got to know her, in spite of feeling constantly ‘one-foot-off-the-ground’ish around her, this wonderful lady sends me frank, effusive friendship, recordings of her *beautiful* piano playing, and somehow skyrockets my mind into distant, magical corners where Writing happens. T’was a shocking and splendiferous moment when I realised that here, embodied in a cheeky, chirpy Texan, was a deep and spangled wellspring of Muse…and it’s not stopped yet.
The Gunmetal Geisha – rarely, if ever before, have I met such a Thinker; a dealer in Truth or Shadowcasting whose ruminations on matters of the heart, the life and the world she inhabits (prolific and numerous these thoughts, as the springtime buds of the Crazy Tree, and as full of burgeoning promise) constantly hook me in. She is as challenging as she is disarming, and conversations with her have a delightful tendency to simultaneously encompass all things under the sun, and the melting inconsequentialism of cotton-candy. I am enthralled, never quite knowing if I’m watching or being watched, or if we’re both just holding up mirrors.
Kimberly (Make Mommy go Something Something) – another dealer in Truths, this time the ones which might send honey-covered fireworks aiming for your heart, or bring frost-coated river-rocks for your soul – I never know ’til the day – Kimberly has a delightful habit of sending a glut of input, all-at-once, and warming the WriterSoul with her enthusiasm. Here, too, there is resonance, and just for her, an extra:
Cathartic Geisha-ism: Sometimes those darker Truths are better left ’til another day – stick with happiness for the time being.
And my huge, greatbigsloppyhuggy thanks to Joy, for making the meme with my words *MWAH*