Wednesday, May 26, 2010

To tell the laity of our love

Thanks to everyone that has been commenting!  All of your great points are really, REALLY helping me to formulate a solid idea of what I want to write about.  Something I'd like to address more comprehensively is Donne's stanza that says, 

"Dull sublunary lovers' love  
    —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
Of absence, 'cause it doth remove                                     

    The thing which elemented it."

My original thought was that our relationships are "sublunary" like this now, because thanks to social media, absence has been all but eliminated.  But now I realize that that was so, so wrong.  Because absence has been removed from the equation (cell phones, email, skype, etc.) and because social networking has taken off so significantly, none (okay, few) of our relationships are "elemented" by physical closeness anymore.  This study that I referred to in my last post says that people have smaller social circles than they have in the past.  Is this because they have such strong and meaningful relationships that they don't need as many people in their personal networks?  Relationships that are based upon physical proximity and convenience aren't really necessary anymore.  

I've found several other studies that say people are able to form better relationships online because of the sense of anonymity.  They can create their own identity.  Ideally, they'll just be truer to what they perceive their  real-life identity to be.  Because of this, they can trust the person with whom they're forming a relationship more.  They can rely on each other more and share more information, because the internet seems so nonthreatening.  I think that is a very metaphysical idea. 

On my last post, my friend Heather commented and made a wonderful connection.  She said "isn't it interesting that a poet who was known for his somewhat paradoxical metaphors has BECOME a metaphor in the new media debate...Donne expressed the human tendency to make creative comparisons. Now, we, as humans, are capable of LIVING these comparisons as we form strong relationships over a distance. It's a paradox... but we do it, and it works." 

I love this point, and I think this is definitely where I want to end up with my paper.  Because of social media, we are able to embody metaphysical relationship ideals that Donne could only write about.  But, of course, new media also has detrimental effects.  My friend Neal made a comment that maybe we're sacrificing older relationship ideals for new ones-like the couple that's constantly texting.  There's the complaint that we as a society are too "plugged-in" and it's effecting our sense of reality.  So, am I making too bold of an assertion? 



Heather said...

I'm glad my comment helped you! As for your last question, I do think that Neal has a point that sometimes new relationships are too "plugged-in." And I do definitely think that there needs to be an aspect of physical proximity in relationships. I mean, I can skype the guy I'm dating three times a week, but the feelings I get when I talk to him like that, while nice, are NOT as nice as when I'm with him in person.

So, I stand by what I originally said about Donne, and the metaphysical metaphor. But... I still miss being with my boyfriend in Idaho, and I think that's totally natural and a very good sign. I would never give up physical proximity. I don't want to be COMPLETELY metaphysical. :) That being said, I still think the metaphor is interesting and you have some really valid points, and you can still make an argument for your point. If it was me, I would jsut be sure to have some sort of concession in there that physical proximity is not meaningless. And I don't think that ruins your argument.

James said...

Well maybe your assertion is a bit exaggerated, but it does nicey emphasize the point you're making - namely that people grow closer together the further they're physically apart. At least that's what I'm getting out of it.

Here's something to support your claim.

Then here's a possible concession Heather suggested you have - although this one could be too strong and isn't really clear as to what aspect of facebook leads to divorce. You could point that out to soften the impact on your own argument.

neal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
neal said...

I think it's okay to have a qualifying factor to your ideas about the metaphysical - I still think you've got some good interesting ideas.

Here are some more qualifying ideas, in case they seem any more relevant than other I've offered:

In "Relationship Formation on the Internet..." that you posted, it says that "the self-relevant information that one shares with a relationship partner in the courseof developing trust and intimacy is not the widely known features of one's public persona, or 'actual self.'" (p. 11)

I think this is important to note. What one shares through electronic means is rather "what you believe yourself to be" and not necessarily what you are. When someone is with you in person, they can deduce many things about you that you would not necessarily choose to represent about yourself, or that you might not even recognize about yourself. But when the interaction online is almost entirely deliberately constructed, that can make a very different scenario.

For instance, in this piece in Scientific American,

the author writes about how his online partner turned out to be a completely different woman than her photos indicated...because she was constructing a persona, rather than revealing her persona.

We might see a parallel in the ways that dating can be easy and fun when you are not living together, and then when you are around each other all the time, you discover things about a person that they never would have chosen to reveal about themselves in the more narrow avenue of interaction.

So what are the ramifications for the metaphysical? Might "metaphysical relationship ideals" be based on fictions within the electronic world? Or, how does one avoid those fictions, whether they are intentional or inadvertant?

neal said...

Here's an interesting quote that suggests that positive outcomes may result even from online fantasies, though negative traits may be exacerbated by the online forum:

"An insecure, passive-aggressive person gets stuck in an endless stream of online arguments. Others may use cyberspace as a opportunity to exercise their positive characteristics, or to develop new ones in a process of "self-actualization." Online romances, even those involving a clearly recognized element of fantasy, can be growth-promoting."