I realized while drafting a couple of recent posts something I thought we should discuss. I realized that writing via a blog-medium invites reckless exposure. Even though all I pin up here, in this cyper-place is an image rather than a real person. So is there a threat? There shouldn’t be. But I think I see one although I never did in the past.
It strikes me as odd, coincidental, that as an overly-shy child, with nothing in my physical shell except a quivering emulsion of insecurities and ‘fraidy-cat jelly, I was so brave when confronted with my own reflection. I looked in mirrors and pouted and posed and contorted in reckless ways. Straining and twisting in poses of face that would have prompted pant-wetting laughter, or overt disgust, if viewed by others.
The Internet is similar to a mirror. Here we define a space and create within that space a self-image. It is a reflection as simple as a pond or mirror reflection that seems to pose no threat and thus encourages us to be brave. But is it that simple? To answer that I want to move to another discussion about mirrors and reflections.
This other thought arises from vague memories of a child’s book of fantasy – “Through the Looking Glass.” Though written well before the invention of computers, the author of this book clearly perceived the magnetic pull and fascination of reflective images. And though I only vaguely remember the story, this much I do recall. This book offers a spellbinding analogy of how mirrors offer a place so much more enticing than our real world.
And so if the story were analyzed with the same intensity as works of Nostradamus, we would certainly see the book as a foretelling of human nature and the draw of Internet communication. Here is the prophet of how an exact, but not-so-real-world copy, has the same compulsive draw because it features a perfect counterpart scenario without censure.
Some time ago I read a note about the communication and exchange of one’s unconscious needs within computer mediation. What researchers discovered is that stone-sober bloggers are impulsive and reckless. In fact, they have fewer inhibitions than a slobbering drunk at a private house party. But why? I guess because we are compelled, in ways we fail to understand, to step through the glass, as Alice did. And here in this not-so-real-world of cyberspace, we tend to dissociate with ease from the disciplines that hold us true to who we really are.
I expect you think it quite silly that we are discussing scenarios that seem as much pretend as a story about walking through a looking-glass. And I would agree except I remember so clearly how, as a child, I longed to do just that. I recall the tension and tangible waves of will and spirit that invited me to step into and explore a reversed world that held so much more appeal than my own.
So now, just for kicks I want you to go to a mirror and look in it. Take a particularly close look at the background of that reflection.
(When you’ve done that, come back and finish reading).
So now, tell me truthfully. When you looked in the mirror, didn’t the reflective backdrop of your home looked cozier, the kitchen tidier, the chesterfield more inviting? That’s part of the force and pressure, strain and draw of reflective images that can’t be denied.
As for me, so much time as passed since I was a child, but still I feel the draw. And it is not just dream-stance but even practical considerations that draw me. The twining of reality with a mirror-reflection stimulates my sorting and organizing skills as well. It makes me want to get in there and grab the twin object, so I can overlap it with the original and stash the two together in the same space.
So, it is true. I have felt the pull in a tangible way that radiates from a looking-glass inviting me to come to that world. As strong, but even more insidious is the invitation to go unfettered into the reflective image of myself on the net. But having recognized the parallels of that magnetism with a common household mirror, I remain cautious. I am keenly aware that everything in the mirror, though seemingly exact in detail — is not.
There is a contortion and skewing that changes values, expectations, and intent. It is called the ‘reverse factor – left is right, and “tfel si thgir”. That’s pretty scary.
P.S. We are all aware of so many parents with responsible, modest, obedient, mature-thinking teens, that are aghast to find that they have stripped in front of viewer-cams or engaged in conversational exchanges that are so far removed from their real life persona. Perhaps this looking-glass invitational ease is the thing that parents should discuss with young people as much as other risks of the Internet. It is a seduction for a child equal to that tug you and I feel for an early morning cup of coffee…or the tug to write another Blog.