Our local NPR station is doing one of its annual membership drives. They bug the hell out of me. First of all, they keep going on and on about my having not called, but how do they know? Maybe I did. Yeah, I know. It’s meant for people who haven’t called, but still. Anyway, today this listener called in and said how her local NPR station makes her feel “connected to the community” and I got to thinking, connected to the community how exactly? Because you hear what they are telling you, that provides connection? Then I started wondering what connection is anyway. Everyone talks about being “connected,” but what the hell is that? I always considered connection actually requiring something be in one piece. But some seem to believe connection exists just by knowing some of what is going on. I don’t know that it is. You hear about some group doing something or you hear about how some guy shot his wife or you hear about the local elections so yeah, you’re in the know, kind of like high school. But how are you connected to that just by knowing it occurred? And some of these things, like hearing about how someone killed someone else, who wants to be connected to that anyway? Since I happen to think connection connotes, well, one piece, is it one piece for information to be broadcast and for me to hear it without really giving anything back? I suppose if the person on the radio told me about some volunteer opportunity and I went and did it, then maybe by virtue of my having become one piece at some point there was a connection. But this notion of connection because the information is out there and I hear it just doesn’t quite sit with me.
It’s funny, people seem to feel we are more connected because we can go to the internet and get information from someone across the world, or we can send an email at the drop of a hat or pick up a phone and dial, and maybe in the context of the phone we can have a connection because another person can be on the other end. But so much of it is an illusion of connectivity. There really isn’t one piece. There is one person at one end of an electronic device doing something or hearing or seeing something on the electronic device. At another time, and possibly simultaneously, there is another person or several people in various places connected to electronic devices and interacting with them. But the actual people are not necessarily actually connected, especially when it comes to the internet.
I thought about this a lot when I internet dated, something I have given up for good. It creates this illusion of intimacy. You go through essentially a catalogue looking for the right visual stimuli that appeals to you on whatever level, be it through photos or what is posted about the person, or what they have to say, whatever. Then, while sitting alone at a keyboard, you send some signal letting them know you are interested. At some point in the future, they get your signal, look at your marketing tools, then ignore the signal or respond via another electronic signal. If that happens to be email, you can spend hours, days, weeks even, sitting and typing at the computer without ever having encountered the other human being. You may discuss things in depth. You may keep it light. Whatever. The point is, it is an illusion because you have never actually connected to that human being, at least in terms of connection being in one piece. No wonder it is so easy for dishonesty to proliferate. I’m not arguing that people can’t lie when they hook up in bars, but at least there you have the visual clues to go along with what is being communicated verbally to ascertain how much of what is going on is the truth. I would suspect the same is true receiving information from various forms of media and assuming it is true and assuming we are connected. It’s an illusion and it’s easier to be deceived.
If the rain is falling all at once, are the drops connected before they land? If I am driving in my car with others on the road, are we connected by virtue of heading in the same direction? I suppose the answers could be yes and no, spanning science and the metaphysical. I don’t know. I think I’ll go ponder these connundrums while I take a shower.