It must have been some ten years ago when I photographed author William Gibson for the last time of the many times I photographed him. At the time he was distinctly obsessed with email and several times during the shoot we heard the little bell announcing the arrival of a new message. He would run with a smile on his face and coming back with the same smile. Last year I ran into Gibson on Main Street and he told me he had gone with much enthusiasm into Twitter. Those who know, know that his Twitter handle is GreatDismal. My friend the now Android guru, Tim Bray also tweets with great frequency and I must confess that I don’t understand half of them. One of them today said, “Twitter is rejecting Twidroyd with some authent-error bumph.” I surmise it must be some sort of app that allows one to tweet with an Android phone. I have also noticed that facebook “What’s on your minds?” are becoming shorter and shorter. Better still for those who do not have the time, they just click the “I like” thumbs up. What is most evident about facebook is that few who post add any content that may be self-made. Most point to links in newpspapers, web sites and youtube. “Check this video, it’s hilarious,” many say. Other postings are similar to this, “It’s a beautiful sunny day, Get your butts outside!” Some 10 years ago I was part of Spanish on line photo “comunidades”. These gave you the impression that you were part of like minded individuals who shared an interest in photography. In a short time I had a feeling that the quality of the posted photographs was in decline while the glowing congratulations for jobs well done multiplied stratospherically. I abandoned the comunidades as I did not feel that they made me feel part of any community. It was the community of my neighbourhood, of my city friends and family which felt right. Facebook simply compiles the many communities out there and you then feel part of any of them. Most who have a facebook profile list their birthday. So you will automatically get birthday greetings on the day. Those of us (me) who do not look for that sort of thing and (who never was part of the habit of sending real birthday cards) might feel initially guilty at having forgotten. But then remembering because a facebook application helps you to remember does not give me much of an idea that any of the greetings might come from the heart. A friend of mine told me, “ You are troll.” And I will admit this. Below you will find the repeated incarnation of a blog I wrote about facebook twice. I have yet to change my mind on it. I have been reading a lot about facebook these days so I decided to go search through my blog files and see what I had previously written about it. After reading it I have decided to bring it back and let it stand exactly as I wrote it in July 2008 facebook, Flickr & The Loneliness Of Social Networking Sites
I have been reading a lot about facebook these days so I decided to go search through my blog files and see what I had previously written about it. After reading it I have decided to bring it back and let it stand exactly as I wrote it in July 2008 Since March 9, 2008 I have been haunted by an image that was published in the New York Times Book Review. I removed it and put it on my bedside table. The image is a modified Edward Hopper painting. It made me think of a couple of painter friends who seem to be interested in that period of American art. Both my friends Tiko Kerr and Neil Wedman have an affinity for Thomas Eakins and the latter also loves Edward Hopper and John Singer Sargent. And I would suspect that the three of us would include American painter Winslow Homer in our list of American favourites. A month back Tiko Kerr and husband Craig Shervey visited Philadelphia and made it a point to go and see the paintings, sculptures and photographs of the city’s favourite son, Thomas Eakins. I wonder if they saw his wonderful but disturbing Crucifixion (1880).
The painting with Christ’s facial features obliterated by shadow makes it the most lonely ever interpretation of the fact that we all die alone, even God. Much has been written about Hopper’s near obsession with displaying solitary figures in his paintings. His paintings remind me of Neil Wedman (and some of his own work) who lives a reclusive life. I’ve seen him every once in a while, smartly dressed, walking on South Granville. He lives nearby. Wedman dresses in the clothing of the 50s and 60s and almost looks like one of Hopper’s figures in 3D. I once commented to Wedman, that dressed as he was he could be on the street selling apples and looking very much the part of the apple sellers of the American Depression. All the above serves as a long winded introduction to my theme for today’s blog which has something to do with sharing an opinion with David E. Corbin from Omaha who sent the letter to the New York Times Book Review. My friend Nina Gouveia, an ex photographic subject of mine who now lives in Spain insisted I become a member of facebook so that I could see her photographs. I resisted for a long time. I had no interest in becoming a member of a social networking site. In the end I joined under my legal first name in Spanish and my mother’s maiden name. Within hours I was getting friend requests from Spanish men who were intrigued by my mother’s Basque surname. Of course I did not respond as I have no wish to make friends with people I don’t know (as strange as that may sound). These social networking sites like facebook further disturb me by the fact that I am able to see who Nina Gouveia’s friends are. I am even hinted at the idea that I might know some of her friends. This of course is a distinct possibility as she lived in Vancouver for a few years. Both she and I know animator artist Danny Antonucci. I don’t have to resist and urge to communicate with him by sending him a facebook friend request. He would not know me by my surrogate name. I can simply call him up with a telephone. I have been thinking about the internet, social networking sites and communications in general for some time. Recently I broke a friendship (He told me, accurately I would suppose, that I could not do it) that began when both of us were 21 and in college. The final nail on the coffin was when he told me that he hated phones and my attempts to talk to him via Skype. He told me that it was sufficient for him to read my blog to find out what I was doing. After years of having lost touch with my friend Felipe Ferrer Junco, the ex chief the federal police in Acapulco I located him in Houston where he survives respiratory problems (he smoked a lot) with an oxygen tube in his nose. The result of our Skype talk is that he now communicates with me via MSN and has sent me 150 very large files of Powerpoints on pink horses, Bush conspiracy theories, etc. I don’t have the heart to write to him and tell him that a short communication telling me his health is better would suffice for me. I delete his sendings without even looking at them. My participation in photography forums have resulted in accusations that I show off my knowledge in my posts (not hard in an age of photographic mediocrity). These forum back and forth communications remind me of having exchanged a science fiction book with a neighbour in Mexico City. Months later we both discussed the book while I was certain that neither of us had read each other’s book. The photographic forum postings are all one-sided. Some years back while waiting for our airplane to take off in the very busy Chicago airport I noticed that there were airplanes in front of us and airplanes behind us. We would move up as soon as a plane had taken off. Each plane had its position. In the same way I have a friend who answers emails in the order that he gets them. But because he must have many email pals that roster of lined up emails is so long that a reply will come perhaps in a week. I sent my friend some music CDs and these were also put on a pile with their correct standby order. All of this reminds me of the essay a woman wrote for Playboy during the pre-AIDS gay period and from San Francisco. She dressed up as a man and investigated glory hole venues in the city. Men would stick their private organ through an orifice of a private booth and someone would anonymously service them from the other side. It strikes me now as an example of intimate communication (of sorts) with a perfect stranger. I remember in my youth writing letters to women. I had inherited not only from my father but from my Aunt Dolly the ability to write good letters. My letter relationships with these women were distanced by the time it took my letter to get to them and for them to reply. Sometimes it took me time to reply as I could not and cannot write legibly. It was frustrating to write knowing that half of what I wrote was unintelligible even to me. Or the placid machinations of the Mexican or Argentine postal services would delay or lose the letters. With Word, a computer and email it has all changed.
With email, communication is instant. And “kissing on that first date” is now more common. Within a couple of emails you are told intimate details you would be embarrased to tell anybody else. There is a paradox here of exchanging intimacies while not looking at the other person in the eye. Perhaps in all this, a reader of this blog might just understand why I loathe Flickr, facebook and the like. I can think of one image that I took of a mentally disturbed woman on the mend in front of the Vancouver General Hospital some years back that conveys the loneliness and frustration so many of us are forced to suffer. Some 38 years ago I had a student in Mexico City with whom I have kept in touch since. Only recently this friend sent me a communication (a whimsical and lovely one) about her marital troubles. I wonder if face to face these details would have been so forthcoming? Perhaps yes because of our long record of exchanging both conventional letter and emails all these years. Here it is: I went on a date this week. My first…friend of some friends..Widower, 65, lived in Spain, Moscow, Paris..retired..sails, reads, cooks and spends time with his granddaughter for fun. Great sense of humor…which is the sexiest thing in the world for me. Asked me for a kiss which was very awkward..its like asking me if you can take my picture…”deer in headlights”…told him I needed a little more “smelling” time…we’ll see if he calls again. Intimacy on the Net — Not
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.