every week or so I get an email, and in the subject of the email is written:
This is Why You’re Fat
or sometimes they switch it up and write:
Cassandra, this is why you’re fat
and I mark it as spam and delete it. But I always see it because one has to keep checking spam to make sure some long lost friend isn’t hanging out with a bunch of desperate Nigerian dignitaries or equally desperate pushers of Viagra (of which I get a lot of spam about for some reason).
And in my quick scan of the spam box the phrase always jumps out at me, “This is why you’re fat.”
That phrase basically sums up a lot of our social communication on the Internet. Things are written so they sound personal, like you know the person, like they want to help or offer you something of value – but the underlying component is a manipulation of your self esteem and desire for love and acceptance. Like status updates that sound like they are addressing close and worthwhile friends about decisions one has made about life, but are little more then veiled sniping at other person (with thinly camoflauged identity) and a threat that if you don’t agree, “like” or comment supportively then you won’t be a “friend” or worse, are the un-named person being spoken of.
There was an interesting paper recently published that examined the nature of our social development, sense of community and ability to grow and maintain friendships that look specifically at the impact of social networking. Particularly the culture of status updates on FB and twitter. It found that the majority of people did not treat such things as either casual connections, business or entertainment but perceived that they were a part of a deep connection to another person. In the study they had people meet who had a “deep connection” online and they found what many of us know already – all of these things are based in written communication. Written communication engages the other person on a deep emotional level because they provide the “atmosphere, energy and imagery” to go with the words. However, it is theirs alone and does not include any sense of the other person unless they already have an established face2face relationship.
In birth, as in death, the primary language we are left with to understand people (when we are lacking other means of communication) is recognition of faces or the ability to sense presence. The ability to “read” a human face and the chance to do so in conversation is what opens the door to connections and emotional exchanges that are shared. The ability to sense another’s presence is what provides a level of body comfort and connection through a sense of shared existence. Without these things, we are supplanting the other person’s reactions with our own and a sense of connection that is fabricated. We become mirrors that talk to mirrors without ever becoming knowledgeable enough of the person holding the mirror to develop relationships.
In our current society the concept of “friend” has devolved to mean anyone we can recognize by name. Literally. The concept of “acquaintance,” the toddlership of becoming friends, has taken a hike. It is all or nothing in a scant amount of time. We base our understanding and acceptance of others, including our sense of being connected to them on slogans, trends, fashions, icons – basically a checklist of external elements. Even when we share our beliefs the conversations are limited to repeating what someone else has thought then having the comfort level of being willing to stumble and speak poorly as we try to voice what it is that we think.
And we miss that this is happening. Mistaking someone who is well spoken for someone who has their own ideas and opinions. Education and information for someone who has developed the capacity to think. Slogans for beliefs. Wishful thinking for faith. Fear for hope.
The almighty “Like” button gives us something that is missing in our real-time lives and that is evidence we can go back and find of our impact on, and acceptance by, other people. In real-time life (and I just heard a man say something like this today but in incredibly off-the-cuff and elegant terms) we don’t know whether we have planted seeds and they will grow until 10 or 20 years have passed and often, it takes just as long to realize that seeds were planted and took root in ourselves too.
We have steadily lost our ability to live without evidence because we have lost our ability to believe in the future based upon a steadfast knowledge of our own worth AND a recognition and stability in the knowledge that if we have worth, so too does everyone else AND if they have worth, then they are part of our shared future.
Our vision has become narrowed, tunneled and defined by a sense only of our own lives and that, in turn, is blinkered by our lack of sense about them.
We are tangled and weighted by our loss of value. We are allowing a culture to grow in which “evidence of value” is bought and sold, traded with veiled threats and given only with conditions.
This is why you are fat.
c.2010. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.