Saturday, November 04, 2006

Social (Cyber) Spaces

My computer was out of commission for a week and I felt as though I had lost a limb. Whenever I am away where there's no internet connection I feel worried, restless. I have an inexplicable urge to check my mail, to update my ebay account, to read favorite blogs of "real" friends as well as "virtual" ones, to see what was going on in continents far away. All that information at a flick of a switch. Is this the postmodern condition? Where the real isn't merely made of matter and atoms? Where constant streams of information make reality? Or am I merely a child of this networked generation? A material human being who has managed to extend, at times lose herself into immaterial, virtual space? And so when I find myself cut off from such a space there is a perceptible shrinking of my reality. Back to the tactile, bound by physical geography.

Perhaps we, our generation, are at a cusp of something weirdly fantastical and exciting. The symptoms are but beginning to show, the implications limitless. Our social relations, having been bound by family and later workplace kinships for centuries, are now being complemented, even supplanted, by kinships forged where the information makes the person. Relationships that transcend physical constraints - such as gender and social class. It doesn't matter what you look like in cyberspace. It doesn't matter whether you are rich or poor. All that matters is that you exist.

Perhaps there is a certain cadre of people who are seduced by the virtual. Those who have little interest in the hypocrisies of the material. Those who live in their heads. Dreamers such as I. Anything seems possible in the infinity of cyberspace. And we, dreaming idealists that we are, have found the perfect tool to create social relationships unhampered by deceiving eyes and dismissive first impressions.

I have maintained quite a lengthy "relationship" with a boy eight thousand miles away for quite a while. We shared interests and liked to talk. It was enough, until we grew older, until the endless typing no longer sustained. I've made friends over a local community website. We "eyeballed", we drank, we laughed, we organized Christmas outreach programs. I met my boyfriend through his blog. His words and his mind seduced me, we met and fell in love. My laptop failed me but a week ago, and upon expressing my self-disgust on this blog, a fellow blogger Dominique (who's in Dumaguete) and his friend Charo (thankfully in Manila), volunteered to help.

Yesterday, as I sat transfixed watching Charo's fingers flick and fold in a rhythm which I imagined coincided with the calculations in her head, I couldn't help but be amazed by this emergent social space. There we sat, total strangers never before laying eyes on each other, intent on reaching a common goal - fix the damn computer. I didn't do anything of course, just sat there like a nervous expectant father waiting for his first child to be born while she worked her magic. And voila! Presto, my files are resurrected.

This new social space of the immaterial has helped me in the past seven years to create material relationships unhampered by human faults and biases. This new social space has forced me to unlearn cultural norms hinged on appearances. In this network of human beings there is only shared interests, values and goals. Communication and information dissemination is immediate because virtuality and reality unfold the same.

It makes one think that we in this country are at the dawn of a revolution. A re-ordering of space and proximity. A destruction of old structures that restrict and contain. Are we re-making our social reality as we speak? Aren't you in awe of the possibilities?

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