Archive for Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Social interactions change with time, technology

March 11, 2009

I grew up in a time before television and instant communication when the rest of the world didn’t exist in my part of the world. That was more than half a century ago in a sparsely populated part of Kansas. For much of the time I spent growing up, my family was my entire world. Our neighbors lived on separate farms, and there was little contact with them. I couldn’t even see their houses from where we lived, and we didn’t pass by them on the way into town.

I was almost overwhelmed when we were children and were transferred from the one-room country schoolhouse where I shared education and play time with less than six or seven other children —most of whom were my siblings and cousins — to a classroom in the big cities of Ulysses and then Hugoton. I coped by keeping an exceedingly low profile. I talked a little bit with my peers but once I went home, they didn’t exist for me. As you can see, this whole existence of mine severely limited the number of people in my social existence. My best friends were my brother and sister and books.

Of course, after I went to the University of Kansas, I met many people and made friends with some of them. I never went for quantity but for quality in my friendships. I grew to know a great many people in that I greeted them and knew their names, but I considered them acquaintances rather than close friends. I never aspired to be hugely popular and be a celebrity on campus. Some of those people known as popular were truly lonely when the day was done, and the shouting was over. Sometimes, their popularity was due to their achievements in athletics and to their beauty and /or wealth. The people who crowded round them often wanted something in return, asking that the popular one’s assets be shared or be a stepping stone to the sycophant’s personal success. The surface and not the depths of the person was what counted.

I’m not saying that popular people are shallow. I’m saying that the surface of a person is not a true indicator of who he or she really is. I believe that our culture tends to only look at the surface qualities such as the beauty of one’s face or the contours of the body, and decide on her or his worth as a friend on what are really only superficial characteristics. When we watch a television show or movie, the hero and heroines are usually physically attractive. The villains often are not.

Now that my family is grown and my husband retired, I am not thrust into the world too much. What I see of it usually walks into my house. My husband, my grandchildren, my children, my niece and nephews and my siblings are the people I see the most. However, I have dear and treasured friends in various parts of the world and am lucky enough to communicate with them occasionally. Ironically, one of the ways I stay in touch with them is through an Internet site —Facebook. One would think that with such a name, one’s face would be terribly important, and so it is on this program. But program users don’t have to use the face they received at birth. The real beauty of it is that users may change the face they show to the world at will. Some use flattering photos of themselves; others use pictures of pets or projects or cartoons to represent their persona online. Although I use a photo of myself on my page, I love the free use of different photos. In many ways, the picture they use tells one much about them and their lives. For example, I love beautiful animals. I always thought I’d like to be a wild horse when I was a child. I loved the freedom that such a beast would possess to run and rejoice in unrestricted spaces.

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