Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Edit Your Inner Monkey

On the week-end, instead of making my rounds of the party circuit, I finished reading Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, by my new hero, John T. Cacioppo, and William Patrick. Just as interesting as I had anticipated. I will comment further on this in future posts.
This morning, found a somewhat related article in the Globe and Mail, "Forever in touch: a giant step back," by the well-known anthrolopogist Lionel Tiger (memorable if only for his carnivorous name). Dr. Tiger repeats a complaint that crops up now and then about our virtual society, and how much the young - who grew up with it, and often little but it - are missing from life. By relying on Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail instead of letters, let alone the very basics of face-to-face encounters, people are short-changing their inner monkeys. All primates, Dr. Tiger points out, spend their waking hours touching and/or looking at each other. People who are cut off from others do very little, and sometimes go days without either eye-gazing (even briefly) or touching in a kind manner. (In desperate moments, bumping into someone in the crowded bus might count as "touching," but it shouldn't, should it?)
He is particularly concerned that all this electronic communication provides a filter - editing, he calls it - for self expression. Hard to edit yourself when you're face to face with a friend! But you can do that when e-mailing or writing about yourself in, er, a blog....
Communication about who you are and what matters to you - all the way down to the minutiae of your hobbies or daily routine - is becoming more imortant than connecting with one other person at a time in a meaningful manner, or the whole of humanity, through cultural links.
The proliferation of new and different and more media results in good part because from Montessori School on, folks are enjoined to be creative, express themselves, achieve their potential. But the clear message – requirement – of the new primate attention structure is that editing the self comes first. Only maybe then express it.
Is it possible that learning how to read a book skillfully and comprehend and appreciate the bravery of the world's pageant of artists, players, dancers, building-makers et al. will take precedence over confecting a new website for M&M collectors?

Reading this, I cannot help but hope this here blog is a wee bit less pretentious than all those vanity projects out there. Of course, most bloggers believe theirs are valuable, or they wouldn't start them. But many, many blogs go idle for months, according to Harper's magazine, suggesting that their true import eventually emerges to the very persons writing them!

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