June 11, 2012

in Miscellaneous, Personal

We all do it. We all think we shouldn’t but we would be very odd if we didn’t and we do do it: categorise people on sight.

Age, race, gender – willy nilly (wonderful expression) we label.

And then comes along the internet and social media – and we can suddenly potentially all talk to each other free of such filters. We can communicate without anyone knowing about our age, gender, peculiar proclivities, disabilities or amazing beauty– we can get away with anything. We can communicate anonymously and this frees us up to be anybody. I know people abuse this – but do the rest of us, us nice people, do we indulge the amazing freedom we suddenly have?

An old people’s home could be full of people talking to like minded – as opposed to like aged – people all over the world. An end to isolation, loneliness and, most important, stigmatisation. I wonder if enough is being done to get such places and people on line?

You might be fed up with being a mother – you can forget about the babies for a while and be a soul singer. You can abandon accountancy for a few hours and become a middle-aged acrobat. A tight rope walker. You could discuss toothbrush holesmanship with the experts.

You can be a celebrity and talk to the world peer to peer, losing the special stigma of high status. High status no doubt can make you feel good and special, give you a glow in the morning. But it also isolates and costs you freedom if you can’t walk down the street unmolested. Social media, where you can ‘be’ anyone, can, however, give you the freedom to talk to anyone without the filter of your label. I wonder how many people take advantage of that? And if not – why not? It is so difficult to engage across the celebrity divide. This is daily visible on twitter, where celebrities make announcements and their subordinates jostle grovellingly for sparse attention.

I wonder whether, without the usual signifiers, we communicate differently? What are we doing with this new freedom? Do we enjoy it? Do we fly? Are we making the best of it, here, right on the edge of this Brave New World?


Door painting (2) by Anne Wareham

Emma June 17, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I like this freedom blog, talk of willy nilly and your point about filters. I am not sure however that twitter is stereo type free.

Follower tallies, shorthand tweet banter and the speed of exchange are telling points about twitter status (a stereo type of sorts?). I am certainly aware of those who have it mastered. However the magic for me is the connection and crack you can have in so few words with people you don’t know at all.

anne June 17, 2012 at 11:39 pm

That’s right – and that’s a freedom of its own. I love it too..and sometimes a new friend emerges from the play…

Charles June 14, 2012 at 8:22 am

It does seem very appealing to be able to communicate with people just with the content of our words and not to be concerned about what we – or the other people look like, or sound like, or whatever. But it doesn’t work like that for me on Twitter, say. Because, I think, I am still relating to it as an extension of conventioanl friendships. They involve meeting up every so often. I’ve really enjoyed the Tweet ups. But it does mean that I know at some point, that my Twitter followers may well discover that I am the devastatingly handsome, cross dressing, 23 year old dwarf that I am and not some 58 year old, wrinkly old guy with thinning hair with a stupid grin.

anne June 14, 2012 at 10:06 am

You told EVERYONE now!!!

Russ June 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thank you for an interesting post.
My main concern is social media will breed what might be called “virtual-skitzophrenia”
A split daily working vs. online personality.A lot of us “want to be something else” maybe day dreamers, may be something else. Nothing to do with this troll nonsense etc, but gazing intently in to a computer screen is vastly different from looking someone in the eye and that level of interaction. I work in video/audio post production and have had the pleasure of meeting some of the “celebrity world” In my experience the true professionals who are great at their craft/comfortable in their own skin/know where they have come from/have a good idea where they are going to are fine.
Typically can scan a script for a short while, then sit down and do a perfect read.
It is often the 2nd tier, hopefuls, not quite fully-made-it-yet who are painful to deal with. I, too find these online acolytes, mesmerised by each lofty edict pathetic and quite stupid. The celebrities will ask you the “way to the gentleman’s/ladies WC” like any other normal human being.
The word lemmings and rushing off cliffs comes to mind.

anne June 13, 2012 at 10:20 am

Presumably the first tier began as second tier? I think confidence, which can be very hard to acquire in competitive worlds, can add grace. Perhaps speaking as equal to all kinds of people on the social media can help build confidence, and help knock off some of the rough edges. Painless practising?

Russ June 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

A typical example I can think of is Hugh Laurie before he moved off to the States.
Completely brilliant nice chap (totally unassuming) who we used to talk about his love of motorbikes as he tooled round London on them. Anne I just think you have either-got-it or you are going to sit on that 2nd tier maybe as a minor TV celeb or something like that.
Oh I forgot about my “Gentleman’s WC remark” I remember who asked me a couple of months ago.Bernard Hill, great chap, and a bit lost and exceedingly nice.
Nearly broke in to King Theoden’s death speech though.
Thanks for your thought provoking post!!

anne June 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Well, celebrities in the showbiz world are one thing, and unknown to me. But in the garden world they come as a very odd mix and there are a multitude of other small worlds with their heroes and heroines out there ……

Paul Steer June 12, 2012 at 2:15 pm

Yes Anne, I am still grovelling to Monty but alas no response ! I do think social media can open up debate and discussion across all those boundaries you mention. Like all things in our hands it can be used for good or ill. I personally have benefitted from being able to communicate with people I would never have been able to, even 10 years ago. People out of my social class were unreachable in any other way. It often amazes me that so many people have the same fears and insecurities despite their ‘status’ or wealth.. it seems to be the nature of human beings. Interesting that we seem more confident to share more intimate information online than we would if we were face to face making all those judgements of character based on age, dress, status, gender etc.
What was my real persona like compared to my virtual one ? You are now qualified to answer…don’t hold back….I can take it ?

anne June 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Paul, you were as interesting, self deprecatory, amusing, entertaining and generally affectionate making in the flesh as online. Monty is missing something! But I cannot get your real appearance into my head on one encounter: you are still in the image I created in my mind before we met.

Strange – means I might not recognise you in the street! XXXX

Alison June 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

My mother was over 70 when she got her first computer and went online – I agree it is a new freedom, it does broaden horizons and I have no idea how I managed before it

anne June 11, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Yes – wish I’d had it when we first came here, knowing no-one. Would have been great.

Ann Hawkins June 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm

Anne, I absolutely love this post (and the way you write).

Such important points and no, I don’t think enough is being done to show people how to use this wonderful medium to escape the tedium or pressure of everyday life.

I see too many young mums beating up themselves and each other on Facebook, dishing out and wallowing in guilt about parenthood, too many old folk bored witless by daytime TV and phone in radio shows and put off exploring this new avenue of escape by the likes of Jeremy Vine and others who know nothing of the possibilities and use their positions to make people afraid instead of adventurous.

Lets start a freedom campaign – a new way of using imagination and creativity!

anne June 11, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Sounds great! Phew – where to start? (here??!)

Nigel Rogers June 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm

As a non celeb, it is difficult to argue with the established. I often do but lack the spine to confront in person. Perhaps an anonymous persona such as twitter allows a little more surety to flourish as such?

anne June 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

It should – surety could certainly flourish – or you could at least practice flourishing?

Ann Hawkins June 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I tweet in my own name Nigel and am very findable as a real person but I do love a good confrontation on Twitter, especially when people are talking utter b/s. It usually ends well after a clever exchange of views. Only a few flounce off and un-follow me!

Previous post:

Next post: