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 :).

Silence is the loudest noise.

The phrase “the silence is deafening” is often used when there an expected level of noise or background ambiance is not met.  Indeed, this phrase is usually said by people who are not used to total silence. Thus, it then could be said that silence is indeed the loudest noise. But what is silence, really?

Perhaps by defining what the lack of silence means first, we can then understand what silence is.

In Singapore, there is hardly a place/time normally where you will find total silence. Noise is everywhere, irritable or likable. Let’s dwell on the irritable nature of noise first. Here are some examples…

Construction noise pollution from our ever zealous housing providers into providing the citizens who seem to have an unfathomable obsession with housing upgrades. Car alarms belonging to inconsiderate and apathetic drivers go off and sets up a cacophony that could very well wake the dead. Toddlers with those oh-so-cute but insanity driven shoes that go squeak squeak wherever they walk (I swear I could hear some of the very bad ones even from my apartment high up). Even when you are sleeping, cars zoom by outside, thrill seeking motorcyclists speed down the slope, police chasing thereafter, cat/dog/people fights, bottles/things getting broken/smashed about,… and the list just goes on and on.. 

It seems like noise,not only content with making a nuisance of itself, follows us wherever we go too. In transport, the painful screeching of the occasionally needless braking of the buses as it taxis in the bus stop. The so called “sodcasting” meme, a term which I missed during the early 2000s, that I came across recently (thanks, honwai), embodies that “I love my music, you should love it too (and I don’t care if you don’t, I’m sticking it up your ass)” ideology. Thanks, but no thanks. And then similar fads or social phenomenon mimics this, like the really out of tune, totally fucked up singers singing along with their headphones in the bus from bad rapping music to yodelling old hokkein songs that even makes dogs, who don’t appreciate music, howl in irritation. Then there are the gamers who think the public transport vehicle they are in is a virtual LAN party, shooting everyone with their imaginary laser guns and exploding jewels. 

On the other hand, noise can also have a likable disposition or should I say, gives hope to the despair that one may be going through. A close relative or friend who is on a long coma, a noise from him/her would be very, very welcome. For child bearing women, the sound of the new born crying is a sound that invoke emotions of welcome relief and joy. People cheering as the sports team that you support scores a goal. If you are the team’s supporter, that gives hope, because it shows you are not rooting them alone. The announcements of test/trial results amidst the tense silence(pun intended) through a welcome voice brings exultation and jubilation. Celebration in an event worth celebrating. Laughter as appreciation for a excellent (or totally silly/corny) joke.  The noise of an engine of a stalled car that comes back to life. And maybe, the sound of the nuclear reactor engine starting up despite being damaged badly by a natural disaster,which gives some hope that radiation leaks may be controlled somewhat.

It seems that since audible noise, which is part of life’s positives and negatives is then suffice to be qualified as one of the important things that our daily life needs. I beg to differ.

There is another type of noise which is sadly, I think, at least, is being badly overlooked from the place where I live, something that hardly ever happens in sunny and humid Singapore, something that is alien, probably even morbid to some. That,is known as silence.

I don’t know about other folks, but work life can be stressful when you are forced to be someone you don’t like, pander to people that you don’t think are worth pandering to, dealing with people that think they are the world and everyone should fall at their feet. While that can be another long article by itself, after a lot of these in a day, the last thing that I would like to hear is the squeak-squeak sound of a toddler’s “radar shoes” or let alone the incessant cackle of gossip that aunties make about their amorous neighbor (which have nothing to do with them) be it from a mobile phone or otherwise. I just want some solitude to calm my fraying nerves, to calm my anger, to forget about humiliations that I had to endure. I can smoke a cigarette,drown my sorrows in sex or sake and these would probably have helped somewhat, but I can’t even make it to the above mentioned destination without hearing Eminem or Rihanna sing that they love the way I lie a 1000 times and sung by a tuneless wannabe.  I actually like that song, but not played again and again, and not with that mood.

Perhaps because I was a musician, so music is probably a skeptic hazard to me. Good music and good audio goes together.  If you played from your nearly busting iPhone or Nokia speakers, no matter how good the singer is, it sounds like fuck. But I apologetically digress…

The fact that people do not often see it as a problem with audible noise, and only with an supposedly inaudible one that is deafening brings some interesting views (there is no 100% total silence). Have we gotten so used to audible noise, that we forgot how to appreciate the silence. Is silence so terrifying that we cannot come to terms with it?

I look at the not-so-recent campaign in Singapore about “Loving Your Ride” with irony as well as a tinge of sarcasm.

Loving my ride?

Yeah, right.

Previously they had this thing called the mobile TV on buses, airing local programs, which I think, in addition to the game/sodcasting/shouting on the bus as society’s competitive reply, is enough to bring one to insanity within the bus. Ironically, when the mobile TV went away, I thought I could “Love My Ride” finally, but then the indignation and competition to the mobile TV did not go away, it had become the thing that it was meant to drive out in the beginning.

And then here’s another irony, we put on earphones where another form of noise comes from to drive out the noise we don’t want to hear. We try to band-aid bad audible noise with another of our own.  However, that band-aid, when made public, may be another form of social irritant which may make another application of the same, and the cycle continues…

I think that we need balance, there is a time for noise, there is a time for silence. And not everyone’s timing is the same.  As a case in point, when women have their monthly menstrual cycles, not every woman has it at the same time. So when you, as a woman, are not having yours and you are around some whom you know are, you somehow feel empathetic. Smells, feelings are all extra sensitive to women on their cycles so you take this into consideration when you relate to them. Likewise, not everyone is presumably in the mood to hear your song being sodcasted or sung.  You could do so in your private circle of friends and so on, but in a confined and narrow public transport or place, a bit of respect or consideration does not hurt.

I find it interesting that although I seem obsessive about the lack of noise, I actually enjoy nu-metal, heavy metal music blasted at a loud volume. But it is for my own private listening space.  And it is because that space has been violated and raped many times by other noise forms, thus, metal is a good way to drown out every one. But the best form of noise is this. As a light sleeper, I do often sleep with my ear plugs as any little bit of noise wakes me and I can’t sleep thereafter if I’m woken out of my first cycle of sleep.  And sometimes when the ear plugs are new, they are the best. I can, enjoy the silence. At first it seems odd. But it pierces my soul, I start to sob, smile, weep tears of relief, laugh, smile, blush. I can finally be myself in my own private space, no n
eed to compete with anything for once. And after a few minutes of that, I finally drift off to a nice sleep, awakened refreshed and ready to face more “noises” in my life.

Yes, silence is the loudest noise, but sadly we had settled for something much less. We only know of audible noise, an inaudible noise is something that is alien to us. With silence, there is a sense of fear, because there is nothing tangible, nothing perceivable, nothing conceptual about silence. It’s like a black hole that pulls everything into it. Sadly, this affects us mentally, we get so accustomed to a template, a methodology of how things should remain perceivable, tangible, that we forgot that there are things that cannot be quantified or put into absolutes like love, time and so on.. If we can appreciate the existence of non-audible noise, I think we can start thinking out of our comfort zones, be less myopic – in that only audible noises rule the universe, and eventually, only to make a noise that is befitting to the occasion. If we recognize silence as a form of noise, we should learn to respect when it needs to be administered like how we enjoy audible noise. 

I hope we can one day enjoy the silence, not be content to the audible noises that we are so accustomed to live with.

We should learn, therefore, to enjoy the loudest noise that speaks the softest and the most earnest way to us.