Monday, April 16, 2012

Love Me in a Box

Self Branding 
Whiskey Day has been writing a great series of posts about how we perceive self and others through interactions in virtual worlds, blogs and social networks. One recurring theme is the differential between who we actually are and how we are perceived by others . . .
You don’t know me. You know many things about me. You know the name I chose to share with you. You know the face I choose to wear. But how genuine is that? As long as the puppet is entertaining, do you care?   You Don't Know Jack
The problem with labels is that, while they might be true on some level and sometimes worth a chuckle or ten, they ultimately do something harmful: they dehumanize. Labels and broad generalizations erase all of the complexity of someone’s rich story and paint them as a one-dimensional caricature. And once you’ve dehumanized them, it’s easy to marginalize them, and ultimately ignore them; to dismiss them and allow yourself to feel superior.  Don't be a Dummy
 And the way we experience ourselves . . .
Is there a danger in loving that image of ourselves that we’ve created? No matter how different from our physical selves, our virtual selves are still a reflection which we have created; a facet of ourselves that we long to both share with others, and to possess. from Narcissus
Each of the scenarios Whiskey describes stem from the human compulsion to conceptualize experience into nice understandable packages. We all carry a virtual world in our heads that's a mental model of the external world. See what comes to mind when you read the following words:

New York . . . World War Two . . . Lindsay Lohan . . .

The human brain is amazing! Your mind just traveled in space and time to deliver full blown conceptions based on relatively limited personal experience. What you just experienced is the core of what differentiates humans from other forms of life. It's also what creates the problems Whiskey describes when we mistake our mental maps of ourselves and others for the actual territory.

This process is also exacerbated by our compulsion to strategically manage and control the information we share about ourselves. Consciously or unconsciously, we put ourselves into boxes as we choose how to represent ourselves online. This isn't necessarily a bad or disingenuous activity. If we don't project a strong image of ourselves online people will just put us into their own conceptual boxes and fill in the blanks with their own projections. And who knows what the hell they'll come up with?
Girl in a Box 1
So can we genuinely come to know each other? Personally, I agree with Byron Katie who said that no two people have ever met. We never experience anyone directly because it's always through the filter of our own perceptions. But what we can do is reality-test our beliefs and not confuse the judgements in our mind for the reality of the other sentient being. Bryon Katie has a great process to detect and let go the false negative beliefs we have about ourselves and other people. I recommend it highly.

So for the record, I'm content to be your content. You can love me in a box.




3 comments:

Michele Hyacinth said...

"...So can we genuinely come to know each other? ..."

Not only that, but can we genuinely fully come to know *ourselves*? The idea of identity is so incredibly nebulous. The idea of such certainty with it throughout an entire life and every circumstance and every face of change is, well, a neat and tidy one-dimensional view. Understandable given how extraordinarily complex life is. But, anyone who has ever faced a serious challenge in life comes face to face with discovering how little they knew about themselves, how very little they are in control of their own ideas of self. Good, bad, or otherwise. Oftentimes, we rise to incredible levels that we didn't think possible in the least. As your posts have explored over the years, often times it's not only the "you don't know jack about me" but it's the OTHER "you" (all of us) lacking this intimacy: "you don't know jack about yourself."

Botgirl Questi said...

Thanks for taking an extra step to the mirror! It's hard to see the deep, infinite mystery of others when we perceive ourselves within fixed and rigid identities. I like the example you used of someone facing a serious challenge or change in life.

I think we tend to define ourselves and others within the context of what we've experienced. There's a vast potential that could manifest if the environment changed sufficiently. Just a simple example is someone who starts playing an instrument and discovers they had a latent musical talent. Or maybe their neighbor's house catches fire and they risk their life to save someone. The same holds true for our darker potential.

I guess when it comes down to it, my old Deep Tweet is good advice: Learn to be comfortable in the state of unknowing

Whiskey Day said...

I know myself all too well.

Consciously or unconsciously, we put ourselves into boxes as we choose how to represent ourselves online. This isn't necessarily a bad or disingenuous activity. If we don't project a strong image of ourselves online people will just put us into their own conceptual boxes and fill in the blanks with their own projections. And who knows what the hell they'll come up with?

Realizing that we ultimately have no control over what the hell they come up with is a big part of finding your happy place online.

No one likes to be misunderstood. But you can only clarify so much before you drown your original point.

I'll just be me. I don't know anything else.