Social media: a useful alternative to fleshy fuzziness

May 22, 2012

This piece in the FT at the weekend caught my eye. It’s very long, and concerned primarily with the place of social media in relationships which, in America anyhow (the author is the FT’s San Francisco correspondent) seems to be just plain weird: in my household there are strict and entirely reasonable rules barring tweeting at the weekend, whereas some couples in the US have introduced live streaming into marriage proposals. As we wannabe yanks say: go figure.

The passage that caught my scrolling eye, however, is copied below. I think it’s absolutely correct that digital interaction strips away meaning, and makes things (usually) less fuzzy and awkward.

But most of the time that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to discover that many of the people I thoroughly enjoy interacting with remotely are, well, a bit of a let-down in the flesh. And I’m equally certain that the feeling would be mutual, more times than not.

The benchmark for a relationship featuring any kind of physical interaction is simply higher. But that’s ok, because this is a classic case of horses for courses: invest time in eyeballing those closest to you, and have a thoroughly good time retweeting and replying to everyone else.

On another level, communicating over electronic channels strips the emotional context from conversations. Some people, young and old, are choosing to communicate with each other through texting and social networks specifically to avoid the ambiguity and awkwardness of telephone and in-person conversations. But it is through those ambiguous, awkward moments that people truly get to know one another. It is by interpreting facial expressions, tones of voice, and half-finished sentences that we figure each other out, and become sympathetic to others’ points of view.

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Margins: George Orwell A Life (361)

May 16, 2012

I knew next to nothing of George Orwell aside from having read Animal Farm and 1984, but I know a little more now thanks to Bernard Crick’s thorough, balanced and unvarnished biography.

I was particularly taken with this passage, from a letter to fellow writer Stephen Spender, in which Orwell explains why he stopped attacking Spender in print. It combines, rather touchingly: principled commitment to intellectual aloofness with fundamental, inescapable human warmth, and a lovely little comic pay-off.

Even if when I met you I had not happened to like you, I should still have been bound to change my attitude, because when you meet anyone in the flesh you realize immediately that he is a human being & not a sort of caricature embodying certain ideas. It is partly for this reason that I don’t mix much in literary circles, because I know from experience that once I have met & spoken to anyone I shall never again be able to show any intellectual brutality towards him, even when I feel that I ought to, like the Labour MPs who get patted on the back by dukes & are lost forever more.


Football fans have little staying power

May 3, 2012

Having decided long before Swindon Town FC were crowned champions (of the lowest flight of the English football league, but champions all the same) to become a season ticket holder for the first time, I was interested to read this piece in the FT last week, which suggests I will probably be in a minority if I’m still a seasoned fan in a few years time.

Writer Simon Kuper and his colleague, a sports economist, studied more than sixty years of attendance data and found that most aren’t the diehard matchgoing tribalists that many aspire and/or pretend to be (cf. my friend and footballing arch-enemy Stef).

Moving town, having kids, being too busy: all these and more conspire against ‘sticking with’. The only people who tend to keep their seats are, in Kuper’s words, ‘older people, with less complicated lives’. One glance around the stands at the County Ground certainly confirms the staying power of the old, although I couldn’t possibly comment on how complicated the outlooks of my pensioned brethren might be.

I leave you with this: the most civilised pitch invasion I’ve witnessed, wherein thousands of fans ran onto the pitch at the end of the match, and then (as here) ran off again. OAPs were, as far as I could see, absent.


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