Living in binary mode

Recently, I discovered that I’ve been blocked by someone that I had followed on twitter, let’s call her Diana (not her real name of course).

It all started with a tweet from Diana saying she finds it silly that some Facebook users don’t use their real photos, to which I cheekily retorted that well, I find it silly that people use Facebook in the first place. Diana then said that well, the world uses Facebook for collaboration. Though I did agree that it is a good tool for collaboration, I disagreed that the “world uses Facebook”. Then in my self depreciating style, cheekily, albeit sarcastically, linked the word “Facebook” with “fakeboob”…and then I found out after a few days later that I’ve been blocked. Upon scanning some of Diana’s tweets apparently after my last, it appears that I have been implied to be “disagreeable on purpose” even though the author claimed to have lived with “different views”. Well, perhaps I could be faulted for being insulting or sexist, (hey, there ARE people having fake boobs!) and yes, I can accept your sensitivity and should apologize, but “disagreeable on purpose”?. I find that a very strange thing to say, and I don’t really understand. I could only concur that perhaps this particular person doesn’t like being disagreed on and cannot agree to disagree.

Oh well. To each his/her own. 

Incidentally, I’ve only been on twitter for the past year or so, strangely, the feeling of getting blocked for the first time is a little off putting and I found myself a little disturbed by it. Eventually, I got over it and actually, after some introspection and analysis, I figured why I felt this way.

Most people would see these things in a trivial light. You might say “Come on, for someone to get upset or affected by ONLINE rejections?! You have got to be kidding me. You are too sensitive!! Get a life!

In all honesty, I wished I could. The fact is, for the last few years I’ve been living, I couldn’t really see “one real life” let alone get one.

Now, the next statement could probably end up being a bit controversial. I don’t have much offline friends as opposed to online ones.  Thus, when I sort of lose someone online (even if she/he may just an acquaintance or even less than that), I feel much more has been taken out of me than when I lose someone’s friendship in real life. Of course, there are exceptions. These include my soul mate (aka my missus) and my family. These are the only real friends I really have in real life now. The rest, well, they are acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about belittling them, I’ve met some really nice people in real life, but on the other hand, I’ve realized that the concept of a “friend” is just too sacred to confer on them.

It’s ironic. I don’t mind sharing some of the intimate details of my life with online folks, but I will think twice before sharing with real people.  Perhaps, it’s because I find that the offline friends I had, rarely share, try to understand or appreciate what’s passionate and important to me.

Yes, I understand that friendship is a two way street. In actuality, I did spend a lot of my time sharing other people’s passions and ideals but no one did the same the other way around. After a long while, it got really frustrating to the extent that whenever I try to express my thoughts and opinions, it became offensive, even taboo to some.  What’s worse, some of them couldn’t distinguish between the pragmatic and personal. Betrayal, alienation and false accusations then followed. Eventually, some of these friends erased me from their lives, some still contact me but I’m just being social to them. Not friendly. Maybe I’ve been hurt too much to be anything more than that.

I could continue to share about the situations, ideals and the things I stand for behind those troubled times that led to this state, but that would probably make this post into a story book. Moreover, there are far more important issues to bring up here. Maybe I’ll dwell on this in a separate post at another time. Compared to my offline social network, the online version,is more unrestrained with what to say, when to say and how to say. That’s why I like social networks like twitter, because you basically build up a universe from scratch not from people you know before (aka. no past baggage). Although it is said that online social networks are modeled somewhat under real life social networks to compliment it or as an alternative, to me, I would seem like it’s the latter. 

Every society has constraints that makes living difficult. In conservative Singapore, for example, being openly homosexual will cost you, whether be in politics, career or in social circles. Yes, we had the pink dot, but seriously, that can’t do much, just being aware does not actually solve the problem.  Another interesting fact, intimate personal behavior even within the confines of privacy of your own home/room can be classified as criminal if someone is bothered by what they saw, even though it be accidental. And of course, how can we leave out freedom of expression, no, you can’t just make pickets and walk down Orchard road in protest even if it’s orderly and there are police around. You could jolly well be fined and arrested.  

And the list goes on…I’m sure this is true in other countries with varying degrees too. 

Thus, one may wonder if I am advocating a world devoid of morals, where anarchy rules, where the next sin is just an imagination away? Not really. I think there is something called mutual respect irregardless of any religion nor dogma.  You respect the right of the individual to be a homosexual, so as you would respect the right of a heterosexual to remain heterosexual. You respect the right of the individual to do whatever he/she likes in the confines of his/her privacy, as you would respect the rights and the comfort of others in the common space you share. You respect the freedom of expression by an individual as you would respect the institution when there’s a need to. This is what I am looking for. This was what I thought the world can be. But this is not the way the world is now.  There are countries/societies that come close, but nowhere near.

It’s not freedom we need, but mutual respect.

That, I think,can be realized somewhat in like minded people. And it is easier to find these people online than offline. Although the catalyst of social networking is based on common interests, I think it should also be based on common ideologies. And then there is the beauty of choice. Bringing back the issue of Diana again, with all due respect, Diana has the right to block me, just that it hurts because it wasn’t my intention to annoy. But she has that right because her ideology and mine doesn’t go hand in hand and she does not seem comfortable with it. For me, I see things differently though. Just because I dislike Facebook, Macs and Windows does not mean that I expect everyone else to do the same.  To be frank, I do have a lot of very nice followers who are Mac/Windows/FB fanatics. However, when one thinks that their ideology is the universal truth, that it does not just apply to them but to everyone else, then it also gives me the right to state why I think that their ideology does not hold water if it counters mine. Believing something thus wanting to share about it is one thing, expecting everyone else to swallow what you say because of this is another. I have to remind myself on this time and again too, to avoid the fine line between an advocate and a troll. And sooner or later, there will be a stage reached where one or the other will state: “Fine, to each his/her own.” Yes, we have agreed to disagree. 

People are complicated creatures. Each individual is uniquely different.&
nbsp;You see a lot of different people online. Especially on twitter, there are those that are full of themselves, their tweets or posts scream “me! me! me!” everywhere and unless they have a cult group or celebrity status in real life, no one really follows them much. Then there are the desperately social folks who would irrevelently reply to any thing that their followers post. (Yeah, I know, I’m sometimes guilty of that too) Strangely, I noticed that the latter evolves to the former very quickly. Apart from these, there are closet homosexuals, exhibitionists, gamblers, ranters, trolls etc… People that probably couldn’t do things in offline mode (real life) probably find it more liberating in this binary universe. 

The online world though recognizes this diversity and from a data’s perspective, social networks neither distinguish between a pedophile nor a pastor. Most online societies however, mutually respects each individual’s individuality. But there’s another problem… Humans like control and power (to them, not against). Granted, an appropriate amount of it is needed to maintain that mutual respect of humans to each other, however, too little of it, you get anarchy, too much of it, you get a dictatorship. Online, this is governed by like minded individuals who will naturally draw the circle around what’s acceptable and exclude what’s not. (yeah goggle+ insinuations, I know). What’s not acceptable in the circle may be taken up by another group that makes it acceptable to their own kind. This is how it should be. The freedom to evolve and create interest groups without imposing blanket values on everything. However, some humans think that since they have the right to control what’s offline, they should control what’s online as well. Hence, according to them, circles that have content that are undesirable to them should not exist. And it goes further. They also believe they could manufacture subscriptions to their ideals as well, like they often do in the offline world.

The main difference between offline and online societies is the freedom and convenience of choice. Online, it’s easier to make a choice without sacrificing the inconveniences that associate with a similar move in the offline world. For example, I don’t need to get a job nor go through complicated immigration procedures to move from one social network to another. And that’s why I like living in binary mode. 

But in reality,offline societies still exist.  Though gradually, the difference is narrowing, the online world is helping to shape the offline one politically, socially and financially. We socialize online for various reasons, to be anonymous, to be liberated, to vent our frustrations etc.. But after all these, real things still exist. The earth continues to revolve, the sun still shines, galaxies are destroyed and new ones created. The online world could teach the offline world a thing or two about what it should have been without man’s unnecessary ideological dominance. But then it also has its fare share from the same fate. The more important thing though is not the difference, but the coexistence, to respect each other’s individualism, to respect the common space we share. In the offline world, this not only applies to humans, but towards our natural environment as well.  

The anime movie, Summer Wars, depicts exactly what can happen if this balance is not honored. It actually expands on what I stand for and believe. Interestingly, when all the social networks are down in the above film (believed to be as a result of man’s overambitious zeal for control), the technology that saved the day was the most basic one, the wired telephone. Not the Internet, not the mobile. It’s a very nice social commentary movie disguised in the form of anime that I think one should definitely watch. It’s not an ordinary anime.

And I will hope we’ll evolve like this. Respect and thus be respected. Offline and online. And then maybe I’ll have more offline friends to compliment my online ones if this comes true :).

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