Note: A firsthand account* of on online relationship (or what happens when two people prove themselves to be other – to each other and to themselves! – than they initially thought)
Despite our best conscious efforts, we fell prey to the temptation of objectification. At the least (at the most?), I confess that I did.
Our relationship, if I can call it that (yet in this era of social networking when anyone can reach out to anyone anywhere at any time), began easily enough with her offering of one attractive photograph accompanied by a simple, straightforward salutation: Hi.
I replied. Hello
Soon followed a series of questions. Each innocuous and seemingly sincere.
On the latter point, as I reflect, perhaps I was a bit Pollyanna-ish or caught up in the thralldom of wishful thinking. I wanted to believe her queries were made in earnest. Largely because, I also admit, I was delighted that she, so boundlessly beautiful, wanted to connect with me. So, I replied…
Her: How are you?
Me: I am well. I hope the same for you.
Her: What’s your name?
Me: The same as my username.
Her: OK. Where are you from?
Me: Originally or now?
I wasn’t being evasive. I, like many, now live far from where I was born.
Me: Originally, the west coast. LA. Now, Atlanta
Her: What are you doing now?
Me: Writing to you.
I wasn’t jesting. At that very moment, I was being truthfully precise.
Her: What do you do?
Me: I’m an architect.
Her: You design buildings
Her: That’s nice. Married? Kids?
Me: No. Neither. I’m single and childless.
Her: What are you doing now?
Me: Still writing to you.
As I continue to contemplate, I took note that she had asked all the questions without, in my mind, reasonable reciprocity, offering any personal information. Had I been more alert and less absorbed, less enchanted, I might have been skeptical about her intent. Had I been selected, targeted for something more than a casual, serendipitous exchange? More to the point, she could have gleaned the answers to her questions by viewing my page. I consider myself to be a fairly “open social-media book.” Perhaps too open! Nevertheless, had she not read my page? Or did she, previously having been deceived by social media scammers and being cautious, seek to confirm for herself what she already had read? Or something else? Something more or less? Was she really a chatbot (a mechanical language processing system designed and employed by who knows who to dupe who knows who into who knows what)?
Yes, I could have asked, and then assessed whether her answers satisfied my curiosity (or, if she did not respond, my cynicism). Yet I again must acknowledge that I was delighted that she (whomever she was) had chosen me. So delighted that it hadn’t occurred to me that the fetching photograph on her page might have been “borrowed” from someone else!
Over time, days, weeks, months, more off than on, we communicated. I asked questions and, as she answered, I learned some things about her. Important things. Things that matter. (If I could and would believe what she had shared. And I did.) Places she had lived and visited. About her family. Her hopes. Her work. Her accomplishments. Her disappointments. The foundations of her happiness.
In fairness and in kind, I shared, too. And it felt to me that our relationship, if I could call it that (and I did) had deepened, blossomed. Although we were miles, literally, an ocean apart (again, if I believed, and I did, what she had told me), I began to imagine the possibility of meeting her one day. Some day. And then, I fancied, who knows what might happen? (I even shared with her the initial sketches of my one-of-these-days-when-I-get-around-to-building-it dream home!)
Still, there always was a degree of mystery about her. A cloak of omnipresent impenetrability that she purposefully cast over her life-story to which she once alluded, writing, There are things I cannot tell you.
Still more, as it was and, for an undetermined time, remained, it was inevitable that we, in only exchanging photographs and cyber-scripted, voiceless words, thus, without real-time and instantaneous exchange of thought and feeling, would make of each other what…who we each wanted…needed the other to be.
And this, in part, for me (for I cannot know her aim; although I have some guesses), was rooted in my desire, my need to be someone other than who I am. In a word, pursuing my objectification of her, imagining her to be a vastly superior, smarter, more lovely (more lovable!) person than I perceive…know myself to be, I wanted, I needed to be better!
Thus, in our always likely predictable end, we, each to the other, always having given each other flight to fantasy, became for each other unlikable fictional characters.
© 2021 PRA
*As told to me with permission to share
#relationshipontherocks #misunderstanding #socialnetworkingwhenitdoesnotwork #whenpeoplebecomeobjects #theblindnessofobjectification #fictivereality