Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Things that are on the Internet

-Two very different takes on male-female friendship, to be read side by side.

-Food. A serious or frivolous topic, depending whether it's being taken on by a man or a woman. (If the man happens to be a "right-leaning economist," where to begin?) Frank Bruni just kind of goes along with it.

-John Derbyshire crossed the line. And it wasn't even by expressing a sexual interest in 15-year-olds.

-Dan Savage asks us to remember that the War on Women is also a War on Men, what with contraception and abortion being issues that imply the active participation of both sexes, and what with the branch of social conservatism (where extreme-left and extreme-right meet) that has it in for pornography.

-What with the persistent motif of parents airing their kids' dirty laundry, how did I forget to include the now-notorious "Vogue mom" who put her seven-year-old daughter on a diet, then wrote an article and now a book about it? Perhaps because this can be filed under things that are not on the Internet - Vogue likes to keep its articles for subscribers only, such that you need a 600-page book of ads for designer clothes next to your toilet if you're ever going to hear the mom's side in full, and I don't have this. I mean, I'm sure the full text could be found, but this topic is, as they say, so last season. But yeah, that's pretty bad, arguably worse than the myriad women, hiding behind maiden names, telling us that they've kinda-sorta come around to the fact that their otherwise functional sons are dull and dimwitted.

-I understand enough about Facebook to get that there are settings such that you can make certain content visible only to some people. I get how this works on Google+, and think this might have actually been the point of Google+, but don't use Google+. My own approach to Facebook is to put zilch on it that's more private than what's on WWPD - saves me the trouble of figuring out Facebook's ever-changing privacy settings, plus I'm sufficiently ancient as to only feel comfortable having genuinely private conversations in person or over the phone. I never feel tempted to spill online, so it doesn't quite constitute self-censorship.

I will, however, limit what I'm reading there. If I'm getting too many updates about someone's band, or if someone embraces a political cause, religious fervor, or intensive weight-loss regimin and uses Facebook to provide minute-by-minute updates, I'll hide those updates. Occasionally, and only in the case of people I'm not currently living near or in school with, and typically in the case of people I don't remember having met, I'll remove. (Sorry, sorority sister from Birthright whose identity I remembered after pressing delete, on the absolutely microscopic off-chance you noticed the loss of one of your 4,000 friends, it was nothing personal.)

But the whole thing where you let in your inner circle on this, your slightly broader circle on that, and have some whole category of people you are so kind you must friend, who would be so devastated if you didn't add them, so you add them even though you dislike them, but god forbid they should see whatever incredibly exciting things the people you actually like are let in on, this I've never attempted. But I feel as though this is something one ought to do, to give off the impression of having an incredibly exciting hidden life. Of course, because you can't readily know who's hiding info and who (eep) just isn't putting much on there in the first place, perhaps the mystique thing is covered after all.


Britta said...

While I agree with the first article's takeaway point (men and women! can be friends!), I loved his reference to Traditional Society, that homogeneous culture that is distinguished primarily by being Not Now or Not Here, and sums up oh, about 100,000 years of human history.

Phoebe said...

I might forgive him that because it was an op-ed. It seems like the kind of thing where he might have put in nuance, and it might have been edited out.

I agreed with much in both the articles, even though the were quite different. Obviously, if you're traumatized by the thought of congeniality/conviviality between men and women, you can't participate in the modern workforce, and are best off joining a closed religious sect or remaining in fetal position at home or who knows.

But at the same time, there's a kind of forced-sophistication, or ultra-professionalism, or something, that operates these days, such that we have to pretend that if an unattached straight man asks an unattached straight woman if his acquaintance to go to dinner with him, alone, with no work pretext, this is merely because he wants to be her friend. (A woman asking a man to go do something might have it easier, because she might give the impression that she, like much of the rest of society, thinks asking-out is done by the man, therefore asking a man to go to the movies is of course about friendship. But things may become difficult if she does intend more than friendship. Or not. It depends.) The man may pretend this so as not to set himself up for rejection, the woman so as not to flatter herself. (All those older men in coffee shops are just being friendly!) Nothing is stated, and barring massive quantities of alcohol, nothing ever happens.

This, I think, explains much of the appeal of online dating. People - adults - who meet under ordinary circumstances, even where no one's anyone else's boss or cousin or what have you, are under a kind of perma-taboo when it comes to romance. The fear of committing an act of unwanted romantic intrusion has a way of default defining relationships as "friendships" that might more accurately be deemed flirtations, dates, etc. But these aren't exactly friendships, in the 'opposite-sex friendships are possible' sense.

Also, I think there's a danger in overly sanitizing friendship. People's interactions with even passably attractive members of the sex they prefer will always be charged in a way that those with the sex they don't will not. That's a part of what sexual orientation is, and there's not much to be done about it. Assuming heteros, a man and a woman who are in no way trying to sleep with each other will experience a different sort of friendship than would that man and another man, etc. It doesn't make such friendships impossible, or even difficult, just different.