Friday, September 09, 2005

[Blog Entry] Where Have My Friends Gone? Relearning How to Chew

Where Have My Friends Gone?

Once upon a time, the blogs I visited could be counted with my toes. Nowadays, I actually have to categorize the people I link to, because sifting through them in a randomized list is simply impossible. And if you look at my LJ, I’ve virtually “friended” over a hundred people, and 80% of those link back (and I think that’s true for most LJ people as well… there are more people you friend than those who friend you back, but who cares, since your friends list is probably gigantic; the only exception to this rule is probably the likes of Tin Mandigma, who deserves her own syndication and RSS feed). Thank God not all of them posts every single day; can you imagine reading a hundred posts daily?

Perhaps more important is the fact that there’s this bunch of strangers whom I’ve never met in real life, yet I link to them and vice versa. Sometimes, they’re not even interesting and I merely link back to them as a courtesy. As much as that’s unflattering to them, I also think back on my life, and how unpleasant I really am in real life. What makes these random readers come back for more? Or even form tenuous bonds of friendship?

If I were a naïve guy, I’d say it’s the beauty of the Internet, of seeing what’s inside a person rather than their external appearance. Of course that’s bullshit. At best, blogs are personal propaganda. And of course, you never place yourself in a bad light, especially when you have the right to censor events and craft your own tale. But that aside, why is it easier to make friends online rather than through the usual channel of approaching someone and saying hello (or in some cases, can I get your phone number?).

The pessimist in me says it’s because there’s a distance between us that we don’t learn enough about the other person to dislike him or her. And it’s true. It might be a quirky habit, an unpleasant voice, or simply being unattractive. While in a perfect world we’d judge people by their holistic attributes, in reality we judge them parcel by parcel, whether it’s their physical appearance, or perhaps one thing that irks us, making the rest of the person’s value irredeemable. While two people might not get along while staying in the same room, the same pair might fall in love reading each other’s blog entries. Because you know, blogging is an active action. Being in a room with someone else is not always a choice; sometimes, circumstances bring you there. And there’s this social need to fill the noiseless vacuum, so there’s pressure to speak, to make a comment, or to greet the other person. When I visit a blog, I’m under no compulsion to make a comment, nor am I there “accidentally” (unless, of course, you’ve been victimized by spyware). And the Internet filters people: I don’t get the entire you, I just get your views, your opinions, or just a tiny piece of your intellect. It’s as if I was saying you can keep everything else, I’m only interested in what you have to say.

If I was the ugliest man on the planet, had my vocal chords cut off, and was covered with snot and shit, it wouldn’t matter. Because the only thing blog readers see is my text. So as long as I have touch-typist fingers, everything’s still okay (at least until the next five years, when webcams become the norm, and blog broadcasts are as common as email).

I’m not saying all of this is bad. There’s a certain equality in anonymity. But it’s not the entire product either. For all your email, your blog entries, and your Friendster accounts, it’s still not the whole you. It’s a part of you, but not the entire you. If the people I link to are as accepting as they seem to be, then why don’t I meet up with them, or why do we prefer blogging rather than talking face to face?

Sometimes, it’s a matter of convenience, but again, that’s also the problem about blogging: since when was friendship always about convenience?

Relearning How to Chew

The retainers on the upper part of my teeth have been with me for so long that they’re actually comfortable and I can actually lift them without my using my hands. When they first came on, learning to spit phlegm was the most difficult part, since they’d usually get stuck on the retainers. Nowadays, I spit with impunity (except when I’m Singapore, a country that I have visited only once, and only for four hours).

When my orthodontist clamped my new set of retainers for my lower teeth, speaking became a huge problem. Despite my month’s training in a call center, I’m reduced to the speech talents of a three-year old, mumbling syllables and slurring my words. The one advantage I have when making phone calls is that when people finally meet me, they’re surprised and tell me I’m younger than they supposed.

My mastery of spoken English was never great to begin with, but when you add my latest speech impediment, it’s difficult to take myself seriously over the phone.

And then lunch time came, and then the second thing I had to relearn was how to chew. Because food that’s supposed to be in your throat ends up in the area below your tongue, except it can’t get out because it’s blocked by your retainers.

So not only can I not speak, I also can’t eat. There’s no pain involved unlike braces, but I’m rendered virtually useless as well. My only consolation is that I can still split, and my phlegm is very very sticky.


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