An Online Turned Offline Encounter

A few days back, I was able to have the great pleasure of meeting Cydney Alexis over at Material Lives in person. The way that we first met on the internet was quite fascinating.

Cydney works over at the Admissions department in the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and she happened to have a photo intern working for her who heard about my street photography from a photography professor. Cydney’s intern then went to my site and liked the template that I was using, and suggested to Cydney that they use a similar style for their blog. Cydney then checked out my photography, and enjoyed my images, and emailed me inquiring about how much I charged for my prints. I still have the email stored in my Gmail account:

Thu, Jul 30, 2009

Eric–

I am sure I cannot afford one of your photographs, but I thought I’d inquire anyway–how much do you tend to sell them for? They are just gorgeous.

Best,

Cydney

Upon hearing such kind work about my photography, I was quite touched and offered to send her a few prints (free of charge). After sending her the images, she was extremely gracious and after that we hit it off. We found out that both of us had interests in audiobooks, photography, as well as blogging. She recommended me a bunch of books, one of them being Kafka on the Shore, written by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. Over the year, we were able to keep in touch via our blogs as well as through email.

This summer my girlfriend Cindy went to the University of Madison-Wisconsin to take a Vietnamese-intensive program called SEASSI for the summer. I promised her that I would visit, and before I left Cydney came to mind. I wasn’t 100% whether Cydney was in Madison or some other city, so I shot her a message and got in contact with her. After confirming that she indeed was in Madison, we arranged to meet in person (for the first time) sometime during the week.

After exchanging phone numbers, we arranged to have dinner together, along with Cindy and another friend. We met up and ended up eating at Dotty’s Dumplings, one of the favorite local restaurants. Over some amazing fried cheese curds, chili-cheese fries, and hamburgers, we talked for the first time in person and had a wonderful time, grabbing some amazing Gelato afterwards.

I recall when I told my other friends that I was going to meet a friend that I only knew online, they gave me curious looks. I have to admit, there have been times that I have met people online in the “real world” and was quite shocked that their offline persona was the exact opposite of their online persona. Not only that, but some people even had deceiving online profile pictures which looked nothing like themselves in real life.

The thought of two people meeting perchance via the internet, nearly half a country apart and meeting in person and eating dinner together is quite an unusual encounter. Such things would have never been possible even a few decades ago. However Cydney’s and my online turned offline encounter is a true testament on how the internet is closing the geographical gap in the world and bringing people closer together.

Also in the case of Cydney and I, meeting in person for the first time was quite natural and not awkward at all. I had never seen a clear photo of Cydney, and wasn’t 100% sure what she exactly looked like. Upon meeting her in person, I found out that she dressed quite trendy, and even rocked a sweet tattoo on her shoulder. Also while talking in person, it was interesting that we had so much to talk about, when referring to one another’s lives via our blogs or based on the comments we would leave one another. I felt that I grew to know her quite well on the internet, and nothing about her life truly caught me off guard when meeting her offline.

However at the same time, I still feel that it is important to make the point that online interaction could never replace offline interaction. Even though I did know a great deal about Cydney through the internet, the way in which we were able to interact in real life brought an entirely new type of energy. Through the laughs, tasty food, and good conversation we were able to connect to an extent which could never be possibly recreated online. However with the permeation of online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft, The Sims Online, as well as Second Life, how close can online interaction replicate offline interaction?

Anyways, I still have a few days left in Wisconsin and I should be able to meet Cydney at least once more. And sorry Cydney– I haven’t been able to upload our photos yet, hopefully they will be up soon!

edit: here are the photos

Me and Cydney
Me and Cydney
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Deep Fried Cheese Curds--mmmmmm
Chili Cheese Fries
Chili Cheese Fries

Affirmation

As humans, we always strive to be recognized. We always need others to affirm our existence and that we “matter” in the world. In today’s society, everyone wants to be an individual and differentiate themselves from other people. We all are taught that it is a good thing to be “different” and “unique” and that it is something we should pride ourselves in. Therefore we always try hard to create a certain image of ourselves and maintain it by the way we walk, talk, and even dress. But in today’s world, we even smaller and less important due to the overwhelming force of the internet. We are more miserable than ever before in human history.

Before we talk about the affect of the internet in our every-day lives, let me briefly go over the idea of humans wanting to be different and unique from one another. When we were born, we were all tossed into this world. We didn’t have a choice of where we are born, what race we are, or even what we look like. We look around and for the most part, we all look the same. We all have feet, legs, torsos, arms, fingers, necks, heads, eyes, ear, and hair. Although we have slight variations such as height, weight, and physical attractiveness; all in all we are pretty much the same.

Being born into this world looking like everyone else, we strive to be different. From a young age we are socialized into thinking that being different and being a star is desired. Our society worships celebrities and rockstars. The idea of being on the stage with a million screaming fans is many of our dreams. To have the spotlight on us, and nobody else. For everyone to listen to our needs, desires, and wants. For us to matter in this huge huge world of ours.

There are many ways we can try to differentiate ourselves. Our physical appearances and attributes are unalterable (for the most part) and clothing and fashion is a quick way to “look different” from everywhere else. The clothing industry is a multi-billion dollar industry which profits from individuals trying to create a different self-image. Although people who consider themselves “anti-society” try to push themselves away from “ordinary people” by dressing in all black, with spikes, colored hair, and outrageous fashion, they end up looking like everyone else who tries to do the same. Stores such as Hot Topic thrive in business from young teenagers who try to go “against the grain.” The irony is that Hot Topic is actually owned by Abercrombie and Fitch, which shoppers at Hot Topic are usually trying to combat.

Ever since the introduction of America Online and the Internet, the world as we know it has changed dramatically. Suddenly the internet has suddenly made the huge world a much smaller place, by linking nations from all over the world together in one cyber-domain. And now with the internet, we have the need to please even more people. We try to personalize everything as much on our accounts on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and even our Google homepages. We pride ourselves in being different, but the internet has made it incredibly difficult to be “unique”.  But regardless, we want to be affirmed and recognized as being different and special, so we constantly try our hardest to stand out and shine.

But this has caused a lot of dissatisfaction and a feeling of emptiness in the world. We constantly try to add people on Myspace to feel more important by having the omst friends. On Facebook, we constantly write on each other’s walls, upload photos, and write witty status updates to hope to get a ton of “notifications” in our inboxes. We constantly twitter every thought that crosses our mind in hopes of getting more and more “followers.” We constantly blog in hoping to get more and more page hits. Through the internet, we measure our self-worth by numbers. The more friends, notifications, comments, followers, or hits we have, the better.

Therefore, we must re-focus our attention on quality, rather than quantity. Who cares if you have 1000 friends on Facebook if none of them knows your birthday without looking at your profile? Who cares if you have 1000 comments on your blog if they are only commenting because you give them a comment? Who cares if you have a 1000 followers on Twitter if you aren’t close to any of them?

So what I am trying to say is simplify your lives. Re-focus your attention on intimate relationships, rather than the very impersonal world of the internet. Trying to get the most Myspace friends is as fruitless as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is something that you might try your entire life but will never succeed. Sometimes in life, less is more.