Every stranger is an opportunity to redeem yourself. – Me, at various times in my blogging career.
I was going through singing apps today. Had some spare time after an insanely busy few weeks, and so I idled away with karaoke. Recorded a terrible rendition of “Inbetween Days” by The Cure, and not an altogether tragic version of “Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush on the Smule app. But, I wasn’t as free and happy as on the other times I do karaoke. For I always sing by myself, for myself, because I am quite terrible at it, but this app was just too clever and social for me. I couldn’t sing with full abandon, because it kept recording my face and asking me to share my recording with the world. Why would I want to do that? Why would anybody want to do that?
Why are we so free with everything we do? This is not going to be a rant about social media, because I’m past that. On the contrary, it is going to be about trust. Why do I trust the great unknown with my face? Or my singing? Or my breakfast?
I’d understand if it was just among people you personally know. Or about dating. But, this is more. I am sharing the most mundane, spontaneous, uncultivated things about myself, and all I expect is a gold star or an approving emoji. I am sharing something so personal, but I want so little in return.
Not me, personally. I mean the generalised “I”, for I definitely want much, much more. If I share a picture of my breakfast, I want a witty, informative, inspiring conversation about bread and eggs. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. And I am asking all that from complete strangers. Strangers I wouldn’t even want to be friends with. And not because they are not people to have as friends, but they’ll spoil this whole exchange by being a flesh-and-blood person.
I have my social media for people I personally know. I have my social media for people I have never met, will probably never meet. It’s like two different worlds, two different channels of communication, two different environments of presenting the stimulus that is me, and seeing how each takes in the exclusive information. And it couldn’t be more different. I do not prefer one over the other, but I expect different things from either. For there can never be relationships without expectations, and I am very, very greedy.
Sorry WordPress readers, but we can’t be friends. I’d go AWOL if we were. The very reason I seek you out from time to time, is because you give me purpose in moments of isolation. I get to write letters out into the ether, say my piece, and implicitly trust your strangeness to be heard. And judged without pre-conception. Of course, I’ve grown to know some of you over time, as have you grown to know me. But, it is still a tenuous enough bond to contain surprise. And that won’t be spoiled even if I started vlogging or something, 24*7. Because, whatever you say or do, there is always a difference between how you perceive a person wholly, and how you find them in bits and pieces.
In P. B. Shelley’s famous poem To a Skylark, he speaks of the skylark as “an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.” I like that idea of being disembodied in your art. That is, what you make is separate from yourself. The whole of you, the person everybody sees, might even be irrelevant to it. And in the way we seem to be expressing ourselves in our social media, it’s like we’re fighting against this. Like this picture, or this terrible rendition of The Cure, is not enough in itself, and I have to drag myself into it.
Sometimes, you do need to make the two worlds merge, just a little. When I started this blog, people assumed I was an older man, presumably American. Now, based on comments I get sometimes, I think people assume I dance to Bollywood music as I type, and go to drastically lavish weddings all the time (the former might not be altogether inaccurate). I still have that teenage angsty thing of hating being put in a box, i.e. stereotyped, but I understand that it just stems from people’s need to classify things in order to make sense of them. But, I also cherish the absolute comfort, the tantalizing mystery of a stranger. Not because a stranger is a story to be heard and then kept aside, but because a stranger can represent chaos, from which creation comes. A stranger challenges you everytime to do things over. Do yourself over.
But, I still don’t trust them with my singing.
What do you make of your blogging friendships?