POEM: A Life Virtual, oh so…

There was twitter Jen
Facebook Jen
Work Jen
School Jen
Family Jen
Amongst others
Never at risk
That they would hookup
Or unplug
In some formidable Jen convention
Or at least the latest version
In some ever expending universe
Wear the cost of multiple personalities
Overrides the truest Jen
A pure work of heart
Jen buy Jen
Beholden
To know more
Hard wear or soft wear
Such careening upgrades
Only in the end
To what so becoming
A life virtuoso

This poem is a reflection and a critique of the affect that recent communication technologies are having on our actual ability to communicate and to form authentic identities. Humans have always had multiple roles to play in life, such as parent, child, sibling, student, worker, friend, lover, etc. However, communication technologies have ramped up the number of faces that we put out to the world and have to manage or integrate in some manner

First, face-to-face communications is the gold-standard for human relationships. There are no real substitutes for such things as physical presence, body language, and tone of voice to communicate and be fully present. Perhaps some people communicate with more people and/or have a greater number of communications, but quantity is not a substitute for quality. As people become increasingly reliant upon lesser forms of communication, this can erode both face time and the skills and info gained by face time. As often experienced, screen time can directly interfere with face time.

However, this poem focuses on the issues of identities and personal authenticity. By adding numerous faces, personalities, and roles in the virtual world, this shifts focus to more superficial, less personal, relationships. The inclination and pressure to put your best face forward further narrows the accuracy of such a face in contrast to your true or full identity. Plus, it introduces a distinct bias and growing gap in comparing our insides with others’ outsides, generally feeding personal insecurity and a sense of inadequacy. Managing or integrating one’s own identities can be demanding enough for oneself. But, the real cost comes in distorting the process of forming your own authentic identity and understanding others in a more deep and intimate way. The imperfections and vulnerabilities of virtual personalities is typically heavily edited. This editing is better at honing narrow conceptions of our identity than dealing with the messy, ecentric whole of our being, which requires building trust, investing time and full presence with one another. Increasing focus on well-crafted identities robs both ourself and others of an accurate grasp of reality as a whole

In the end, the best way to learn about ourselves is in close, intimate relationships. Such relationships mirror back to us the reality that our external self presents and which the other person reacts. Over time, hopefully in the safety of a trusting relationship, we continue to reveal more and more of our inner self. This allows us to better integrate our inner and external self, sifting through self-deceptions based on a trusted other’s feedback. Unfortunately, more superficial relationships are partially designed to deceive others by holding back our whole self, which may be taken as socially inappropriate, and may bring significant social sanctions. For instance, most people don’t tell their bosses anywhere near all that they are thinking or feeling. Our many social roles are molded by these real or perceived potential social sanctions. Virtual communities may escape some of this unpleasantness by socially stratifying and homogenizing, forming their own sets of socially acceptable of behaviors. While this may provide some safety, it cannot fully substitute for the hard work of growing face-to-face intimacy dealing with real world vulnerabilities. If you want to be a life virtuoso, you need to face real people in the real world. Confining oneself to virtual reality only makes one want to screen.

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