Is it possible to “Know” another online? I have heard time and again the comment, usually following some kind of judgment of one person of another online: “You know nothing about me.” My own interpretation of this annoyance at the audacity of a person to dare to “judge” another is that the person being “judged” finds it hard to deal with the idea that they have been rumbled. They fall into the trap that they believe that text (the primary medium online, along with emoticons) is a way to screen out knowledge of them rather than act as a gateway.
Text online is the virtual equivalent of “deed” or “action” in the real world. We can learn much from people by their actions. True it isn’t a 100% objective science. But one can say that a person who is regularly generous in life may well have a generosity of spirit. We aren’t being too arrogant calling them a generous person. Of course they may be “faking it inside”, but we can let our intuition be our guide, break our silence and “risk” the judgement. And it is not too hard to read fakery into people’s text either. Very few are experts at that kind of masque.
Several people I have chatted to recently uphold what they believe is their sovereign right to be “not known” online or only known by those they “choose to reveal themselves to”. They seem to believe that getting “Known” by other people online involves selectively revealing certain facts about their private lives to the chosen few. And not to others. Then they can be more “known”. They get very angry if people make an assessment of them online by reading their online deeds, i.e. their “text, their use of emoticons, their pauses, the nuances of what they write and how they write it, and drawing any conclusions from it. “You know nothing about me.” LOL.
In the real world, we read books and there is much (often accurate) we can derive about the author from the way they write. It’s a practised skill. Of course such judgement is seen as annoying and audacious by those who think themselves to be perfect online mysteries, like anonymous gypsies travelling from place to place. Often the “you CAN’T and DON’T know me” people online are actually the most superficial and waste their own energy on cliche and role playing in a weak attempt to “cover themselves up”. It can be quite sadly comical.
As a writer of many years, I find that forming impressions of an author based on their text is quite a natural thing. Of course it is not always accurate. Online, the repeated behaviours of some people through their text and typing makes it almost impossible NOT to know aspects of their real selves. There is of course a valid fear of being stereotyped and demonised. That is an online phenomenon that we all experience at one time or another when our text/deed is misread. But that experience doesn’t contradict the fact that, with careful textual observation and some intuition, with a calm mind one can learn much about another from what they type, particularly over time.
It is all the sadder in social media interactions to see the “you can’t know me” people wasting energy ineffectively building a crumbling wall around themselves when that energy could be used to improve their writing. Here’s a judgement: Quite a few writers online waste that energy and it keeps them just one tantalising notch below a level of quality where they could be professionally publishable.
A pity really. How can we know such people? We know them, partially through their text which are their online deeds. Let that text sing out with originality and zest, with energy and passion!
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