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?