Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Signs, Sighs and Hints

Yesterday I was considering reactivating my Facebook account in some limited way. I tossed around the pros and cons in my post yesterday and then let it simmer. The things I hate about Facebook are not, of course, really the medium itself, but how people use it. While the medium is an integral part of the message (McLuhan says it is the message), I see far too much “hidden meaning” or “vaguebooking.” I’ve done it too, the medium seems to be an ideal conduit to convey that there is a message, but not what that message is. We get ensnared in a guessing game, but we must do it remotely, across the vastness of the World Wide Web.

Where I actually talked myself onto the fence about Facebook, I am no longer there. Of course I could be persuaded or persuade myself back, but for a medium that has as much text-based information exchange – perhaps more so than any other “multimedia” yet - it is largely devoid of any real talk. And it’s not just Facebook, it’s not even just the age of information, it’s likely a phenomena that is as old as we are. As much as we can misunderstand symbolic communication, as inaccurate as words can be, it is still far and away the most effective way to convey our thoughts.

The template for this non-communicative communication scenario looks something like this:

Scene: Something is clearly bothering someone. This is evident through non-discursive communication – all communication that does not use words, including silence. The conversation follows.

P1: *exhibits some form of discontent through non-discursive and/or limited discursive communication*

P2: “Is there something wrong?”

P1: “No, I’m fine.”

Yet it is clear that P1 is not at all “fine.” We’ve all been there, we’ve all been both P1 and P2. As P1, “I’m fine,” means I’m fine. It also means “leave me alone,” or “I don’t want to talk about it.” If pressed, I’ll say that. From the perspective of P2, it is difficult not to internalized P1’s discontent. “Was it something I did or said, didn’t do, didn’t say?” There was a time in my life when what I did and did not do, what I did and did not say, always had the potential to create discontent in others. Questioning my role was both appropriate and damage control. The other component to that internalization has to do with a genuine desire for those close to me to be content. I cannot make the world “happy," and will not at the expense of my own serenity. Furthermore, at this point in my life my motives and actions have never been purer. Yet I still question, “was it me?”  That is something I continue to work on.

We are dealing with humans and their idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies. I get it and I have a lot of experience as P1, P2 and P3-infinity. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But that does not mean I have to live there anymore. I am not a child, a teen or a “young-adult.” I not only grew through those phases, I literally survived them. I am not interested in reliving that. Facebook didn’t create that semi-spoken/unspoken tension, that quasi-communication that requires us to be mind-readers, but it certainly gave it a much larger audience. That fact that I still run into it, as a 56 year-old man, is nothing short of unacceptable. I won’t play. Got something to say? Say it with words. If those words say, “nothing,” then I’ll ignore all other signs, sighs and hints and go about my happy life.





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