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I have been thinking about this 25 Random Things meme circulating blogs and Facebook a lot more than I suspect is warranted. A friend of mine posted this NY Times article on it today, and after observing that the Times certainly is obsessed with Facebook lately, I found the words for what I've been mulling over.

Generally speaking, I enjoy any time my friends or acquaintances share information about themselves. Seriously. I wish everyone I knew had a blog and felt as compelled to over-share as I am. I'm fascinated by glimpses into their psyche, their thought processes, their observations and emotional shifts... I love having access into other people's brains and lives.

Most commonly when people criticize blogging and bloggers, the words "narcissistic," "navel-gazing," and "self-centered" get thrown around. Socially, people mock cheese sandwich blogging or the type of apparent ego-centrism which would compel a person to think anyone in the world cares about their daily lives. I don't feel that way at all. I feel like the minutiae of daily life are what define experiences. They're how I get to know other people and how I really understand what it's like to be in their minds. Everyone is telling a story with everything they do, and I love glimpses into all these stories all around me.

The idea that there must be some degree of "importance" to that which is written strikes me as ridiculous. Ultimately, I'm not sure anything I say or do could ever be important on its own, but it might affect people who, like me, take an interest in the details of someone else's mind. Whether that is on the scale of little tid-bits on the internet or a great and epic cycle of paintings or a heartfelt novel, it's all the same generalized level of interest in humanity and what it's like to live in the world we do. As a species, we're making sense of ourselves and our own experiences by observing those around us, connecting, and changing who we are as a consequence. To me, that's very important, and it's quite beautiful.

In conversation, I am prone to making declarations and constantly defining myself for other people. This is, I'm aware, a way of keeping conversation impersonal and abstract, but it unintentionally makes people think they really know me. Generally speaking, they don't. The people who actually know me are the ones with whom I talk about food, music, cartoons, my commute, my job, boyfriends, movies, and generally all my reactions to the things I experience day-to-day without thinking about how it comes off. They might never hear my views on politics or know a single thing about my spirituality, but I'm sure that they know me at a deeper level because they're experiencing me present-tense, as I actually am.

As I read my friends' 25 Random Things answers, I find that with the friends I really know well, I've already heard almost all of the details they shared. Anecdotes and trivia come up naturally in intimate and familiar conversation, and I tend to remember a lot of details. Reading some of my closer friends' lists, I kept wondering "Why didn't he mention the name that's actually on his birth certificate?" or thinking "Aww, I remember the first time she told me that!"

Beyond that, though, I knew they could make truffles amazingly well because they have naturally cold hands, that they're Sicilian and simultaneously worried and proud that that makes them aggressive, that they consider Kirsten Dunst the most beautiful woman in the world, or that they're afraid of dying. I know the talents and skills they possess, their quiet observations during the Simpsons, which combination meal they ordered all the time at the Cave, what they like to drink, nicknames for their pets, how their voices sound when they're tired... it just goes on.

The self-selection process of this kind of writing exercise immediately makes me think of a book I frequently over-cite: Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. When people tell you about themselves, they are defining the persona of their public selves, the masks they wear through life. The details might create an illusion of familiarity, but ultimately it's just familiarity with the mask, not the self underneath.

When I think of the friends that I "know," I'm not thinking of facts about their lives and experiences. I'm thinking about the shape of their eyes when they first wake up, the sound of their breathing while they're crying, the lilt in their speech as they tell a funny story, the shadows that pass through their eyes when they're worried.

My understanding of people (as everything) is very experiential and sensory, and it's based on being with them and observing them in their actual lives. It's watching them bite their fingernail while we're waiting for a movie, seeing them tuck a mixer straw behind their ear in a bar, sitting in a car while they drive, sharing mac and cheese, being with them while they do what they love to do.

That kind of intimacy, the privilege of actually being with someone, seems to me the most important aspect of friendship and love. I would say I'm agoraphobic and terrified of other people, but I think that's just because these experiences and interactions are so important to me and I worry about missing things or offending people because I'm distracted or anxious. I thrive on being with people when I can take it all in, learn about them and experience them. My friends and loved ones are, without question, the most important details of my life, more than words could ever say.

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This page contains a single entry by Vicki published on February 5, 2009 7:26 PM.

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