Wednesday, May 20, 2009

In cyberspace, no-one can hear you burp

Sometimes physical contact is good. Not just sumo wrestling with a preferred partner in private, but just the added warmth of being able to shake someone’s hand, look at their facial expressions.

My colleague is away at the moment; in fact, he has been travelling for about three out of the last four months, and won’t come back until June. It’s just us in the office, so, I come in to the office in the morning, sit at my desk, and then go home at the end of the day. Sometimes I get to speak to people on the phone, but some days… nothing.

While Neen was away it was very odd. I’d be alone all day, then go home to the children, who are not great conversationalists, and then go to bed, not having spoken a single word to another adult (apart from a brief ‘hello’ to the caregiver at handover time).

I can email, tweet, chat and skype people, but it is never the same. This virtual world, where you can converse with someone in Germany in real time with a video link is still a lonely place.

Don’t get me wrong, I prefer solitude. But clearly (telling you this being evidence), it is good to have contact with other humans. Loners in species designed to be pack animals never do very well.

It’s great that people can reach out to you over the internet, tell you they care, or are thinking about you, but it’s very hard to download a casserole, or smell a virtual flower sent by a loved one.

I hope I’m not losing the ability to make small talk, or gaining the ability to inappropriately emote when I meet people. I’m not quite at the point of retraining myself from hugging the newspaper guy, or weeping on the shoulders of the office doorman, but I do miss people. I can almost imagine what it must be like to live in some remote desert, or tucked into a bat-infested cave.

That said, I enjoy hearing you, meeting you, reading you, watching you in a perfectly legal way, although there is an element of voyeurism in the virtual world. (No, man, not sites with strange rubber suits and credit card facilities- I mean, just picking up on how and why people live their lives). There's a whole crowd of you out there, and it's fun picking out your faces sometimes.

I enjoy the children, mostly, and Neen is back, so we can also chat like adults in the evenings. The sumo stuff remains private. Don’t you hate it when your sumo sash gives you a wedgie? Ok, see, that’s one of the dangers- giving out Too Much Information, or learning it, on the internet. You should keep your friends close, and your virtual friends… maybe not so close.

Is there a distinction between real and virtual friendship? Maybe I should post my address, and you can all send me gifts, and then we’ll all be real friends. In the meantime, here’s a virtual high-five, and an air-kiss for you all.


  1. Hhmmm... I don't see a huge distinction between my real life friends and my virtual friends. In fact, some of my virtual friends have become my real life friends. But I agree with you, as much as I enjoy being on my own- adult interaction is vital to maintain sanity!

  2. @angel; Exactly- you being one of those cross-over friends. And adult interaction is imperative- although, even that gets tired sometimes.

  3. having arrived home to people - the In-Laws, husbands daughter, Husband, a 3 year old niece AND a dog when I usually live here by myself and have been in Bloem all by myself, I must admit I'm really not sure what is best. I seem to have lost the ability to socialise with people who are not paying money to spend time with me :) That's what running a pub means I think

  4. @totally cooked: Your second last sentence had me laughing. But yes, humans get a bit much.


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