The issue of internet-mediated persona versus real-life person has been around since long before the advent of social media, and I think it's a lot more complex than simply that the former is fake and the latter genuine.
The internet's a different place, sure. You're physically and temporally dislocated from the people you're interacting with, allowing great scope for manipulation of the image you put out. You can pose on Craigslist as a member of the opposite sex, or pretend to be a Nigerian prince, or just act like a belligerent arsehole with little fear of repercussion. And the way we communicate is definitely different - I don't usually talk like this in real-life. I swear a lot; I pause and say "um", I mispronounce words - communicating on the internet in false-time allows me to slow down and consider my words and sentence structure, and try to make sure I don't make any mistakes.
But I don't swear in front of my grandmother. The idea that communication on the internet is somehow intrinsically fake (and the corollary that offline communication isn't) has never rung true for me. Online interaction is a particular kind of mediation - so is pretty much every space in life. The internet just offers a capacity for performance that is usually impossible in real life - a meek 15-year old nerd threatening to murder another player in a game of League of Legends, for example. Equally, though, this form of mediation allows for a great amount of openness and sincerity; people are often willing to share things with friends online that they would almost never say online. It just goes both ways.
We are more or less constantly mediated by the circumstances in which we find ourselves. As I said above, I don't swear in front of my grandmother. That doesn't mean that the "real me" doesn't swear (and that doesn't mean that the non-swearing me is not the real me).
I teach English as a second language in Dublin. Mostly I teach junior groups; Italians of 16-18 years. I was chatting to a couple of the other teachers about how we act in class - re-using the same jokes over and over and acting as if they're spontaneous. Sure, it's a bit facetious. But I just said goodbye to a lovely group of students today and the connection we had was not somehow unreal.
When I'm at work I wear a shirt and slacks and black shoes. When I went to a staff party at a pub last summer, I wore jeans and a leather jacket and had my septum piercing out. Some of my colleagues were a little shocked at this difference, but it doesn't necessarily imply that my "work persona" isn't me.
When I'm at home in Mayo I talk with a Mayo accent. This also happens when I'm drunk.
I write letters to people quite a lot. I imagine I sound quite different in them. The manipulation of one's image that takes place in writing on the internet, whether intentional or otherwise, is not new.
Is the real me the me talking to you late at night in a dark room talking about serious issues in my life? Sure. So is the me making bawdy jokes. So is the me sitting alone in my room typing into Hubski.
We perform constantly, in many different contexts. That doesn't necessarily mean that none of that counts as "real". Mediation is more-or-less ever-present, whether online or offline. I don't mean to go all hippy on you and suggest that people are super-complex chimaeras or shape-shifters; there's plenty of consistency. There's also plenty of seeming inconsistency, but lack of consistency doesn't imply that certain parts are fake and certain parts are real.
People certainly act "fake" on the internet at times, but we've been doing that in real life for thousands of years. But I suppose all of the above is a fairly pointless aside because the ultimate point of the article is basically true - online and offline personas, even if they're equally "mediated", are often quite different, as anyone who's met someone online and then in person can tell you. And also I seen to have veered way off the topic of the differences between how people present themselves on social media and how they act offline. Sorry if I'm not particularly lucid; my brain has pretty much turned to mush in the past two years.
(Yeah I'm totally different in person BTW.)
Steve! How's it going? I hope work doesn't grind you down too much - glad to here that the kids are good, though! It's funny - I was just tidying up in my room and was looking at the two TNG albums, thinking about how I haven't been on Hubski in so long, and the first thing I see is this post. I kind of drifted away a while ago and have only lurked occasionally since.
My bare feet are currently hibernating - it's been really cold over the past few months; I think I've only barefooted outside twice since November. But with the weather just about starting to get warmer, my feet will be coming back out.
The longest trek I've done is the Camino de Santiago which I'm sure I mentioned when I was last on Hubski - about 950k, I think, or something like that. we started in early October and finished in mid-November. My initial plan to do it entirely barefoot was thwarted when I discovered just how gravelly the paths are; in the end, I did about 350k barefoot. I'm still happy about that, but I intend to do my next camino entirely barefoot - and I'm definitely doing it again, because it was a fantastic experience. The country was beautiful and the people I met were wonderful; I really think some of the friendships made will last for a long time. In fact, we had a meetup here in Ireland at the start of January. Actually, two of our friends who we met on the camino - and who met each other there - have gotten engaged! And the fiancé is opening an English school in Korea that my girlfriend and I plan on teaching in for a year or so.
It's very hard to talk about the camino beyond saying "it was amazing!" because it all really amounts to "we were in a lovely place" or "we met a really cool person" or "we had a great time"; kind of had-to-be-there stories. Still, I highly recommend it to anyone. I was going to make a Hubski post but most of our photos were lost (along with the camera).
Not much is happening lately - after the camino, I had to settle down to a cold and uneventful winter; the camino ate up more or less all of my funds, and with English teaching being so seasonal I basically haven't worked since September. Thankfully, I got a bit of odd work in January and some weekend stuff back home, but more importantly I'm back teaching tomorrow! At least for now. It's finicky work. That's part of the reason why I'm excited to go to Korea in a few months - somewhere different, but also with consistent work so I'm not broke half of the year.
I'm glad to be back working and feeling productive because lately I've been in a bit of a slump. I've been waking up late and spending most of the day farting around doing nothing; I also feel like my brain is turning to mush since I left university. But I've started getting up earlier and reading more, so I'm starting to feel better.
I missed your annual New Year's Resolution thread, so I'll make up for it here. I have the same goals as the past two years - running (and sticking with it) and playing mandolin (and sticking with it). I also want to read more - I think last year I read something like ten books - this year I'm hoping to read five times as many. And lastly, I intend on giving up smoking - I don't want to be a Closet Smoker any more! So, basically, I have the most stereotypical New Year's goals ever (and apparently have learned nothing from those of the past few years).
That's pretty much it. It's great to see that things are going well with other Hubskiers.
I hope to see more of you around here!
Apologies if I don't know what I'm talking about. I've never been in a lived situation that had any relevance to either of these issues.
1. Abortion is an interesting topic because it remains illegal in Ireland except in cases where there is a threat to the mother's life. There have been some high-profile cases in the media in recent years - including the death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012, who was refused an abortion alllegedly because this is a "Catholic country" and ended up dying of sepsis. More recently, a rape victim was refused an abortion and had to be given a Caesarean section (by the time she was assessed by a psychiatrist, it was too late to terminate the pregnancy).
It's a banal truism to say that abortion is a complex issue (as is capital punishment). Personally, I think it should be legal, and have participated in a few of the protests in Dublin precipitated by the Halappanavar case. What others have already said rings true for me, I suppose - that it is better to abort a foetus than to bring an unwanted child into the world, and that women should have control of their own bodies.
There remain, however, some interesting issues in the life v. choice debate; either side stems from fundamental beliefs about personhood that are ultimately irreconcilable. Deciding when a foetus is a person deserving of life strikes me as fairly arbitrary - some people think it begins at conception, others after a certain number of weeks, and others at birth. These seem to me like a priori beliefs that do not, and possibly cannot, have any real justification. And it's from this that the whole notion of murder arises; a pro-choice person can say that abortion is not murder, because the foetus is not a person; a pro-life person can argue that it is murder, because the foetus is. These ideas are so fundamental to either side that they seem impossible to resolve, for me. What I take from it is simply that it is insufficient for either side to argue that abortion is or is not murder, because the argument is reduced to people shouting at each other about their own ideas of personhood.
It's important to acknowledge that cultural ideas about what constitutes personhood are extraordinarily varied, and more importantly, I don't think it's possible to argue that one constitution of "personhood" is more valid than another.
Which brings us to what galen is hinting at below - the problem of infringing on another person's rights because of your own beliefs, and the problems that poses for any democratic system. We do not allow people to commit murder - and that's the rub, because for pro-life people, foetuses are people and abortion is murder.
I think it is also important to consider that religion is embedded into society, rather than existing as some sort of separate stratum.
2. Capital punishment is a big issue, though not a salient one in Ireland (where execution is no longer carried out as a means of punishment). It seems reasonable enough to suggest that executing someone is a better idea than imprisoning them for the remainder of their life, whether for economic reasons or moral ones (is imprisoning someone for decades really better than killing them?) Naturally, it seems clearer in cases (possibly imaginary) in which the criminal has committed multiple heinous crimes (like a recidivist murderer rapist). Sort of what bioemerl is saying.
But the death penalty has its own problems, namely that of sufficiently ascertaining guilt, without which innocent people can and have been executed. That, or the extreme cost of keeping someone on death row, because the process isn't exactly quick (that's today; in England a hundred years ago, it usually took about three weeks for someone to get hanged, rather than twenty years). Consider the Japanese man who was on death row for decades before being released - and in Japan, they apparently don't tell you when it's coming, so for him every day could have been his last.
Then, of course, there are the logistical matters of the execution itself, although I think they're secondary to the moral justification of capital punishment in the first place. Naturally, I think it's best if it's quick and painless. I remember hearing about a recent execution in the US in which it took two hours for the victim to die, which is quite horrific. Maybe bring back the guillotine?
Capital punishment, to my ill-informed mind, seems like too much of a headache, really.
I did have an interesting conversation about corporal punishment recently, though, in which the other person claimed that whipping would in many cases be preferable to a prison sentence. It's extraordinarily painful, yes, but after the healing period the criminal can integrate back into society, instead of going to prison, or "crook college", and building up a network of criminal contacts for when they're back on the streets. I actually think it's a very interesting idea.
We do have to think about the purpose of imprisonment, which I think has a hell of a lot more to do with attempting to remove people from society than it does to reform them or even to act as a deterrent (which I think 25 lashes probably would do), and, in the States at least, with feeding money into private companies.
OftenBen mentions the problem of granting a particular body (i.e. the judicial system) power over human life, when perhaps they are not to be trusted. I haven't given any thought to this before.