Who Are You? Who Am I? Who’s to Say?

So, Daniel and I were wandering around the neighborhood Halloween night.  We weren’t the only ones, of course.  Candy and costumes were the order of the day.  As we wandered up and down the streets, occasionally we ran into people I knew from the neighborhood.  We’d stop for a moment; say “hi” or just wave as our mutual children dragged us away to the next house. 

I forget which street it was exactly (though there’s an 80% chance it ended in “field”); I walked past a tallish woman with blond hair.  She looked familiar, but I couldn’t place where I knew her from.  She might have been the parent of one of the Cub Scouts in Daniel’s pack.  Maybe she was a flag football mom.  I couldn’t remember specifically and her name escaped me.  She merited a wave; a quick smile and nod, and then Daniel and I continued on our way.

A few weeks later, it dawned on me where I knew her from.  I was logging into MySpace and a random group of my friends appeared on my homepage.  And there she was.  So – a little late – hi, ~~Kristi~~, it was nice almost meeting you.  I hope you had a fun Halloween with your kids and hoped you enjoyed the weather while it lasted.  By the way, how do you pronounce your name?  Are those tildes silent?

I took a look at all my friends on MySpace and realized I have only met six of them in real life.  I don’t think that’s good or bad especially, but kind of interesting.  There is a freedom on-line that you don’t have in off-line life.  I’m always amazed by how people share the most intimate details of their thoughts to others who – by almost any definition – are total strangers.  It’s like being a voyeur; watching people undress except for the paper bags over their heads.  Maybe that’s why the main guy on MySpace is named Tom.  It made me think that as much as I’ve read my friends’ blogs or seen their avatar pictures, most likely I would not recognize them if I should run into them on the street.  Okay, I’d probably recognize Paul McCartney or “Weird” Al Yankovic, but they’re exceptions to the rule.

It got me thinking about how “real” my friends on MySpace might be.  I take things at face value – generally – and believe them until forced to think otherwise.  I catch up with friends on MySpace all the time, and have slow, short conversations with them via the comments.  I could be talking to a guy in California or a woman in Germany, but I could also be talking to a pair of fourteen year olds in Canada with excellent writing skills.  A mark of a great novel is when the characters seem to come alive.  A number of blogs on MySpace may fall under the definition of literature as the characters not only seem to come alive, there’s a chance they actually are alive!  

I also started thinking about how “real” I might be to someone who only knows me from the Internet.  There’s this character named “Bob” and he’s married to “Meka” and they have a son “Daniel”.  How close is this virtual life to the real one?  I think of my blog as an edited reflection of who I am and the people around me.  I like to keep things upbeat.  I reserve the right to edit out inconvenient details that stray away from the narrative.  I may switch things around to make them more understandable to someone who wasn’t there.  And – on occasion – I just make s%^& up.  Above all, I try not to put anything in my blog – about me or anyone else – that I wouldn’t say aloud if asked my opinion on it. 

Of course, you only have my word on it about all of this.  I could be the product of someone’s imagination… though – if I am – I wish they would have imagined me a bit taller, a bit skinnier with a slightly faster typing speed.


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