Friday, October 5, 2012

A Shunning In Cyberspace

This week I was "blocked" by one of my Facebook friends. It was not just a casual friend but someone who had shared the daily minutia of my life over a period of years. Someone I truly expected would be there, sharing in that unique female bond of friendship, until one of us perished. I was either too naive or too blind to perceive the truth. I was expendable. With one quick check in a small box I was categorically "dead", non-existent, shunned from the community of friendship we had shared.

In the real world, where I grew up and learned how to maneuver the social mechanisms of civilized life, eye contact, verbal exchanges, hugs, explosions of laughter or tears were the tools of friendship's trade. A letter or perhaps a telephone would make a connection through which some difficult waters could be maneuvered. However, a final breakup, the end of a love affair, the end of a marriage, a dissolution of a friendship, was conveyed face to face, or at least voice to voice. No more. Today cyberspace has enabled the era of the anonymous coward or the cyber buddy. Can't find the right words; borrow someone else's, pre-packaged and ready to be "shared". Emoticons replace real hand holding and wiping of tears in a crisis.

Perhaps I was a Luddite for too long. I was the last person I know to actually get a cellphone and mine is a phone. I don't text.  I joined the community of Facebook initially so that I would have easy access to the blogs my son was writing. For nearly a year I was able to be a part of his daily life because I was reading his story.  Distance prevented daily real time interaction and the blog was a high point in my day. I am not sorry that I now have learned to be a participant in that virtual world populated by actual flesh and blood people.

When the loss of my job, a year ago, eliminated daily contact with the people who populated my world, I was grateful to be only a keyboard away from loneliness. I know some of my former colleagues' children only from their photos however, I still feel connected.

The need for companionship and community is integral to human health. In some cultures, shunning for a transgression of group laws, is the ultimate punishment, worse than death. Jail time, stoning, public humiliation in the stockades were the tools of isolation of past centuries. Today we can simply "block".
Being the recipient of such a modern day tool of humiliation is the equivalent of a crossbow- sprung arrow through the heart. It hurts.

I am fearful that we are becoming a society of anonymous cowards. Shielded from our fellow human beings by the armour of hefty  SUVs on the road and weaponized, with harmful words via our computers and cellphones in the privacy of our homes, we participate in virtual games where intimacy is certainly not the victor.

My connection with the person who spawned my need to write this blog was of a highly spiritual nature. I trust that the purity of that connection still exists somewhere beyond this virtual extinction.