"Lauren's Blitherings"

No BS, genuinely honest op-ed ramblings on a wide range of news articles.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

So I'm saying. . .in today's society, faux intimacy is the name of the game

I want to tweak something I said in my last post if for no other reason than the corrected version providing the perfect segue into a critique of society that I would like to make.

In my last post on ditching religion, I said that "He [man] NEEDS interactions with other humans to survive". If the focus of this last post had been on a sociological or social psychological topic, and I hadn't had to worry about getting carried off into an entirely different, unrelated direction that would've lead me astray from the very point I was trying to make about man no longer needing religion, I would've been more specific with this phrasing and said something more along the lines of, "He [man] NEEDS healthy, reciprocal interactions with other humans to survive".

But even this corrected phrasing too, I have found, still doesn't speak the entire truth, as evidenced by the typical postmodern interaction. So trying this again. . .

"Without healthy, reciprocal interactions, he [man] does survive, but can be expected to live a solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short life." (obviously the latter piece of this phrase was borrowed from Leviathan, a book written by philosopher, Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century. I find it to be an appropriate fit since a world without healthy, reciprocal interactions seems antithetical to Hobbes's "state of society").

Well, I'm sure Hobbes would be in a state of disbelief (no pun intended) if he were to walk the Earth today, because apparently, even in a "state of society", man's life can be and IS "solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish" (actually, not short, but that is only thanks to the pharmaceutical industrial complex that keep those emotionally-devastated, artery-clogged hearts ticking with their never-ending, forever advancing supply of SSRIs and anticoagulants).

What makes it solitary, poor, nasty, and brutish? It is this. For the most part, the postmodern interaction is not as intimate and genuine as it could be and thus robs man of one of his most basic, fundamental needs as a social being.

And after so many, many years of man perfecting his "performance" (see footnote 1) for his audience (we're talking high-tech, state-of-the-art "pre-established patterns of interactions", folks [see footnote 2]), most men have been fooled into thinking that the interactions they have on a daily basis, whether they be with family, friends, colleagues, etc. ., are intimate and genuine. I am obviously disagreeing with Goffman that ". . .the arts of piercing an individual's effort at calculated unintentionality seem better developed than our capacity to manipulate our own behavior. . ." (p. 8-9 of The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life). Unless of course, the people in the audience are intentionally feigning ignorance so as not to disrupt the social norms surrounding the interaction. . .

Wow, can you imagine? Feigning ignorance in an effort to keep social norms at a higher priority than man's own fundamental, interpersonal needs? It happens all the time. Take the worker-boss dynamic or any other formal dynamic where emotional intimacy is not its basis nor its priority.

But how about in man's informal dynamics where emotional intimacy is key? Surely he can't be intentionally performing in those informal dynamics that are considered healthy and reciprocal (note: I am only referring to "healthy" and "reciprocal" interactions, not ones where the participants are purposefully manipulative for external gains, etc). It is in these informal dynamics that man is supposed to be able to allow himself to be truly vulnerable and not worry about social norms. So, what is getting in the way?

Facebook. MySpace. AIM. AOL. Yahoo Chat. MSN chat. Skype. Cell phone texting. Telephone. Etc, etc. . .

And what do all of these communication mediums have in common?

You got it. They do not allow for face-to-face interactions and thus do not allow for communication via man's most fundamental communication tools: his non-verbals. And non-verbals cannot be hidden behind like words. In a face-to-face interaction, non-verbals are what allows men to be vulnerable with one another. . .and without vulnerability, there is no real intimacy . . and without intimacy, there is no true health or genuine reciprocation.

Yeah, you can see the other person on Skype, but not very well . . . and non-verbals that can be seen are not the only types of non-verbals that are taken in during a face-to-face interaction. How about the other participant's scent? And we're not just talking about the scents that you are aware that you are smelling, we're also talking about things like pheromones. And what's more, man's sense of smell is the fastest route to the most important parts of his brain's processing centers.

And now when people attempt to transfer those faux intimate telephone/internet dynamics to a first-time face-to-face dynamic, a truly intimate and genuine dynamic needs to be constructed from scratch. Or when one meets another first through face-to-face interaction and then they hop back and forth between a faux intimate telephone/internet dynamic and face-to-face dynamic until finally allowing the faux intimate telephone/internet dynamic to take precedence and dictate the performance of an intimate, genuine face-to-face interaction.

I think we are especially seeing the consequences in our bedrooms and in the rising numbers of persons with depression and social anxiety.

No one allows themselves to be truly vulnerable with another person anymore. And for someone who does, it is tearing me apart.

1Definition of "performance" here is: All the activity of a given participant on a given occasion which serves to influence in any way any of the other participants. (Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.)

2Definition of "pre-established patterns of interactions" here is: A "part" or a "routine" that is unfolded during a performance and which may be presented or played through on other occasions. (Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.)

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