Wednesday, August 05, 2009

External Monolog

I had a conversation with a friend in the early days of cellular phones, and she expounded a theory that these portable devices are enablers of external monolog. This was before the advent of weblogging, but I think the idea fits: given a venue to express what otherwise might be bounced around in the psychodrome of one's head, folks will unload and unleash the voices once referred to as the internal monolog. That which in former centuries languished beneath the surface now finds full expression in the fin de siecle World Wide Web.

For a couple weeks I temped at a startup company whose entire purpose was to transcribe voicemails into text. Sitting in a room that would be called "airless" in the most generous terms, myself and a small cohort punched away at keyboards while legions of voice streamed into our ears. We typed out messages no more than one minute in length, ranging from lawyers' notes to affectionate asides, and converted them to emails which were forwarded to subscribers' phones. The one-to-one ratio was a limited social activity, but the basic model held true: folks offered thoughts, ruminations, arguments and reminders that would have remained unexpressed lacking the technological empowerment.

Which brings us to Facebook. More in context, we could refer to it as "Mebook".

I'm thinking specifically of an aspect in Facebook called Living Social. Replete with quizzes, questionnaires, and queries after your opinion of movies new and old, I'm at a loss what specifically is "social" about Living Social. If taken to mean that talking about personal qualities and flaunting your quirks is interactive with people around you, then this kind of "living" is indeed social. Having participated in (more than) my fair share of these, it isn't gratifying to absorb the silence that follows. Certainly there are comments that sometimes follow the publishing of results, but even when they are fun remarks from friends, the feeling I'm left with is attenuation.

Spend time around enough people and very likely you'll find that flaunting quirks does indeed amount to social behavior. What of the senses? When experiencing unique and interesting features of individuals online the transaction is conducted under a veil of silence. Visual perception alone is required. What of inflection and nuance, anunciation or even a funny accent? These are sadly absent!

Lately I've complained that people who work around me are deficient: they don't talk to themselves like I do. Why can't they engage in external monolog as fecklessly? It makes me feel lonely, as if the world were too quiet a place for true happiness.


Lidian said...

This is very astute re Facebook et al - and that's just one reason why I don't like FB and am not on it. I am also getting tired of Twitter but use it to supplement my blogs a little.

And having said all that, I guess that blogging is also all about flaunting one's quirks, really. I try not to do it to the point of exhaustion though. As Dylan Thomas is supposed to have said once, pausing in the middle of some (quirky) monologue:"Somebody's boring me...I think it's me."

wngl said...

Nice quote, Lidian! I think that sums up the matter nicely: I post entries in the spirit of sharing briefly, but at greater length than a tweet. I tried the Twitter experience and lasted a week.

Anonymous said...

the spirit of sharing briefly, but at greater length than a tweet

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