Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Take a Moment, Take a Breath, Engage

A Single Light at Night

Sian has an amazing post about social media and levels of interaction in each others lives. This seemed to vibrate gently with two recent posts she also linked to - one on stopping liking things on Facebook entirely, and one on liking everything on Facebook - both of which highlighted how linking things (on Facebook, at least) has become commercialized through the use of the "like" symbol being fed into algorithms which determine how close or distant we are from each other. Liking on Flickr is a bit different; it is more of a measure of eyeballs and doesn't determine who you are fed next, except maybe on the sidebar, and I'd suspect that's similar with any social medium which has subscription feeds instead of algorithm driven feeds. Liking, starring, or otherwise offering some kind of unspecific approval is available on most forms of social media, and it is tied into algorithms which have a variety of effects, for the self and others. This is all the technical side, though, and what all three meditations on social media and how we interact with it point to means of distancing ourselves via social media, and means of becoming closer.

Within my Own Embrace

Brief responses, with their additional algorithmic effects, are inherently distancing - they are about doing the same thing over and over again in response to a stimuli. They do actually exist outside of a programmed environment where liking is possible; a lot of community social interactions are similarly proscribed - "Hello", "How are you?", "Good", "Please?", "Thank you", "Have a nice day." They're meant to lubricate interactions and make them pleasant for everyone involved, which is why "Really awful," and five minutes discussing your digestion usually isn't usually done, even if it is accurate. Similarly, if you read through some of my How NOT To... series, you'll quickly notice a lot of the men who try to pick me up have a script that is remarkably consistent between them. Their questions largely have to do with Age, Sex, and Location, all offline. Their responses are largely agreement, even to questions asked of them. It can feel like engaging with a chatbot rather than another human being. In contrast to the "social lubricant" situation, when one person approaches another for a conversation there is more of an expectation of sharing information, rather than skimming over the surface as one goes about purchasing one's milk.

Spiderweb and Dew

And that is what engagement means. It means reading for content and thinking before responding. It means showing authentic interest. It means opening oneself to be changed by what one encounters. And this takes, to put it honestly, both time and emotional ease. It's not something which can be done under stress or in a rush; it requires taking several breaths to pause and enough interest. Interest can be directed, but it's easier if it's also natural - I have an interest in museums, and flowers, and weather, and unusual people, but if something is important to someone who is important to me, interest tends to come along with it. This is a somewhat gendered thing - women are more often expected to pick up the interests of their partners than men, just as women are expected to support their partners more than men are - but I think it has a lot of advantages, especially in terms of adding variety to peoples' lives. This kind of interest and engagement is about building and maintaining a relationship as well; in contrast with the brief interaction of a like, really engaging with someone else's interests means learning about it and why the person we care about cares about it. This is one of the ways in which personal relationships can bridge ideological divides as well; when we have an emotional connection we want to maintain, we're more motivated to get and remain engaged even when there are disagreements.

Flowers and Gloss

( More pictures here. )


Skin: Izzie's, Irene
Sparkles: Folly, Rainbow Sheen
Hair: LoQ'ue, Bacardi
Hat: Azoury, Lamia SPoon Hat (L'Accessories)
Ears: Illusions, Seelie Ears
Eyes: De La Soul, Rainbow
Eyelashes 1: SLink, Mesh Lashes
Eyelashes 2: Flugeln Brise, 05-A
Eyeshadow: cheLLe, Tropical
Lipstick: Adore & Abhor, 13 Lips
Wings: Deviance, Sidhe
Hands & Feet: SLink, Rigged Mesh Hands & Feet
Nails: Devae, Horny (75% Sale)
Clothing: Drift, Pussycat Corset & Balloon Mini

Jewelry: Kunglers, TDRF 045 
Shoes: YourSkin & YourShape, Rio Shoes

Pose: Don't Freak Out

Location: The Seelie Court
Light Settings: TOR, MIDDAY Touch o' Purple
Water Settings: mirror water

Photographed by Deoridhe Quandry
Post processing: Cropping, only


  1. I've been thinking a lot about sian's post, the 'like everything'/'like nothing' articles they linked lately. One of the things I keep coming back to is how, the energy required to actually engage (rather than just 'like') necessarily limits how much interaction you can have in a day, and how many people you can engage with, simply because there are only so many hours in a day.

    I feel like your comments here actually help explain a problem I've observed in my own life, when taken in context with the fact that I have ADHD. I find it very hard to find and connect with people I genuinely care about, and your thoughts hit the nail on the head: the time, patience, and energy it takes to really stop and thoughtfully engage is a pretty intense level of commitment for my poor distractable brain. There are SO many interesting things, and SO many interesting people out there, that it really takes something extraordinary to keep me from getting distracted by the next interesting thing.

    I'm glad you share your thoughts with the rest of us plebians btw :)

    1. One of the working theories of human interactions in sociology is that we're capable of relating to about a hundred and fifty other people with any degree of depth and empathy, and that in groups larger than that we start to need to stereotype rather than deal with individuals that have a great deal of nuance.

      I'd imagine someone who has a more limited attention span, and for whom focusing is more difficult (unless you snap into hyperfocus) that the number of people you can meaningfully relate to drips quite a bit, and how you relate to them becomes more scattershot over time.

      I actually have a problem of generalizing too early and focusing on abstracts more than people, which leads me to have a much slower relating to the people around me. It takes five to ten meetings and fairly in depth conversations for me to tell people apart and relate them to a name and history. It means I often come off as weird and indifferent or detached until that "you are this person" snaps in, and then I can become very personal and engaged.

      How people get to know each other and ourselves is so INTERESTING.

    2. It really is very interesting! :D I'm fascinated by your description of how you relate to people. I feel like, from the outside, you and I might come across similarly, but for different reasons. I get over-saturated with stimuli pretty easily, so I maintain this sort of chilled out, but kind of aloof and distanced stance most of the time ... mostly to keep from tripping over my own feet xD

    3. So that's how you handle your ADHD? That's kind of awesome - I can see how it would help limit stimulation. One of the working theories of why people with autism withdraw and limit physical contact is due to sensitivity that is far more extreme than neurotypical people, and my limited experience working with the kids seems to support that.