Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Shyness and Electronic Friends

One of the things I've always found frustrating with social networking cites is that they end, emergently, to create social pressure towards a very trivial, easy notion of the word "friend" that is irritatingly trivial to me. For sites where being someone's "friend" is more functional, like LiveJournal, this doesn't bother me so much, as everyone (presumably) understands that friends there are largely equivalent to subscribing to someone's feed - it's saying "I find what you have to say interesting" or "I'll let you read some things I write that most people can't" and often nothing more. There are some people whose stuff I don't want to read, and I still might consider them a friend, and vice versa. Sites without that disambiguator leave what friendship means on that service up to individuals and still-more-emergent logic, leading to murkiness and potential for misunderstanding. I tend to go on the very conservative side of reaching out to people on such sites, marking them as friends, given that I don't really know what they think about me, and my definitions might differ greatly from theirs. I tend to accept incoming requests when I see them as a potential-friend.

To reiterate my framework of friendships:

  • Close Friends - I have a few of these (probably 5 in town) - I watch out for them, they're the first few people I think of when I want company, and they know me better (probably) than other folk.
  • Friends - I have a few of these as well - I try to keep up with them every so often, we arrange to hang out, etc.
  • Acquaintence-Friends - These are people I like well enough that if they were inclined and/or I put in the time and/or one of us reached out to the other, they could become a friend. They're distinguished from friends by the fact that I don't tend to arrange to hang out with them, it just sometimes happens when we bump into each other. I often say hi/bye in situations where we're casually in the same area.
  • Acquaintence - People I'm ok being around but have no particular interest in. I might hang out with them if I'm bored, although I would feel no great need to say hi/bye if I were not feeling social.

I recently have been thinking a lot about order and chaos, or perhaps legalism versus spiritism, or logic versus intuition/emotion. Each difference is part of the greater division -- how we order our understanding of the world, both in the present and in the ideal. I might stereotype, saying that some people care more about being consistent than in being accurate, and some vice versa. When I was younger, I was a creature of logic - I placed great stock in the idea that being able to better argue things made them more likely to be true (or made them true). Although I abandoned absolutism early, my relativism was initially quite shallow, and my values were not very .. humane or sentimental. I've become a kind of chaos-from-order person over the many changes I've undergone over the last 14 years. I notice this makes me distinct from people who are order-centric (by epistemology or by other parts of their Weltanschauung), or those who are chaos-centric in that my past, far from being baggage, adds a lot of content to who I am today - I reflexively use logic I don't trust to prepare incoming ideas for examination (possibly deconstruction). This complication makes it hard for me to relate to people.

A few interesting human motifs (or caricatures) to meditate on these distinctions:

  • Someone who firmly believes in logic as a compass to fix the world, and is liberal because they believe that conservative thought is based on faulty ideas
  • Someone who believes that the terms we use to understand the world are purposefully constructed to make it hard to clearly think about certain things. They assert that posing false dualities as strawmen are just the first example of a history of casualties of accuracy.
    • They may choose to deconstruct everything that looks like a philosophy, believing that such things are inherently deceptive, distracting people from the one true statement people can make about most things, "I feel..."
    • They may choose to construct something new that feels less bad, in the hopes that either they'll get it right or that someone later will tear it down and build an even better perspective

A few other possibly interesting things:

  • Today's Dinosaur Comics touches, accidentally or not, on ideas of Intellectual Property, in particular the recent protests by some vendors caused by someone making a tool to copy content in Second Life. This is primarily interesting in that second life has "protections" for objects that people can make, causing clients not to allow the free copying (or modification) of stuff (otherwise permitted). Some people spend a lot of time making certain things, and a few of them manage to supplement or supply their real-life income by selling stuff online. As always, I'm on the side against intellectual property. This does lead to my next topic..
  • I think that the GPL probably hurts, in a sense, the software market. This does *not* mean that I oppose it in any way -- I am committed to that damage, but I recognise the perspective that leads to the (valid) perception. One of the things that strikes me as interesting about some old economic philosophy is the stress on efficiency of labour. From one old perspective, the primary good of capitalism as a system (discarding the capitalism-as-liberty perspective) is that it permits careful (weighted by consequence) exploration of means to increase the efficiency of the transaction between human labour and material goods for humans. I like this perspective - making each hour of human labour produce more stuff for society, through improved technology and training, is the basis of capital investment. If this is aimed in the right direction and doesn't conflict with other important values, it is easily determined to be good for society. If, for example, we might at one point need to have farmers working 12 hours a day to collect a certain amount of food from the field, and at a later point, due to giving them tractors and training on their use, they might need to work 6 hours to make the same amount of food, we can either give them more leisure or get more food (either is a societal good). If we can do this across the board, we may eventually become efficient enough that nobody would need to work more than 4 hours a day (If I remember correctly, the old cartoon, the Jetsons, showed this idea with the father only working a few hours a day), and they'd have plenty of stuff, presumably with room for a good amount of comprimise with environmental concerns too. The existence of a good amount of GPL software, including Linux but also including a number of other tools, is a good example of such enabling technology - with open source, people are not reinventing the wheel so much -- there are a number of highly available wheels (probably a gnome-wheel, KWheel, etcetc) that people can use in their workplace (for internal development, at least). Does this take away jobs? In one sense, yes -- the waste labour needed to redevelop software does not occur as much (although systems integration, as a skill, becomes much more valuable). Is this a loss of labour we should mourn? Only if we exclusively think of ourselves as exploiters - looking at "the big picture", greater efficiency benefits society, provided society is willing to be social and take care of people, retraining them as needed. It would help to continue paring down the workday (perhaps down to 7 hours?) as our productivity (theoretically) increases.
  • Watching a long argument on C coding standards on a project I help out with, I can't help wonder why coding style is such an issue at this time. We have a wonderful piece of software called GNU Indent - if things really become contentious, one can set it as a check-in hook in version control, and indent it to one's preferred style the other way for incoming code. There are some areas where people might have creative formatting that is mangled by indent (this is especially true of other, more traditionally visually creative languages like Perl), but for C, especially given the people having the discussion, indent is the right thing. Hopefully they'll take my suggestion.

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