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Semiformalishmaybe

Rabbits and Gender Norms

"In our culture, rabbits are not seen as being particularly masculine""Despite their obvious potency and proclivities?""That's only one part of our notion of maculinitiy - many other traits have long been considered part of that, possibly tying to some biotendencies that developed in the EEA for our species""Huh?"

I've recently been thinking about whether open event invitations of the sort that people often do on twitter, lj, and similar are socially healthy (or would be if that became the norm for such gatherings).. The primary concern is the broadcast nature of such invites. With such an invite, one does not provide the most solid social cues for enjoyed shared company, removing that validation and demanding that people guess whether they are liked - more socially aware people are often rather bad at that, not through a near-autism but rather because our culture does not tend, through various necessities, to build a lot of honesty into some kinds of social interations.

If one wants to know if one is esteemed in society (whether a conscious want or a nonconscious one), the most straightforward approach would be to ask or to rely on other people saying that they are. This is not an option for many, because for large parts of society these things are not openly discussed in a direct way. It may be possible to say "Person X is my friend" to person Y, but telling that directly to person X is considered inappropriate and possibly shocking (note that this is the case for me given the norms that I've adopted, and I've seen these norms in some others, but I've also seen people who have different norms). It is possible that in some cases this is to avoid unnecessarily complication - if person X considers person Y a friend, and person Y considers person X an acquaintence (or some other permutation of terms), or one of them uses a different framework for social relations, there's often no practical point discussing it, especialy if/as these things change. It's only in relations where there's a more practical relevance (like the dreaded "are we dating?" discussion) that more concreteness is necessary. In many cases, people might also lie on the status of social relationships to spare feelngs - in short, this path is largely out of bounds as a reasonable method for at least some parts of society.

Another option, and one that is probably the most reliable, is the presence of an intent or desire to hang out. Who we would spend time with (beyond employment, family, and other necessities) is a big part of what friendship is, and observing how people make arrangements given what they have to work with is a social indicator of friendship. Assuming that people have free time, we might imagine that among their local friends they'll occasionally make specific invitations to hang out, be it for meals, movies, discussions, etc - the nature and frequency of these invitations serve as a social signal of the status of relations. This signal does have two significant nuances - first, sometimes people are actually fully busy and have little or no time for friends. In such a circumstance, they often prioritise relationships for what time they have left - they might make no time for acquaintences or not-so-good friends and only hang out with their closest ones, and in very rare circumstances they may in fact have time for noone. Barrng the latter, one might measure one's closeness to someone by how interested they are in hanging out in a busy time for them. Secondly, sometimes this is the only signal people send for the status of a relationship - instead of telling someone they don't want to hang out beyond an acquaintence level (or at all), they throttle back invites (or acceptance of invites), passively telling them that. Getting or sending such a signal is complicated by these factors, but we understand there are five possible meanings that one might try to ferret from the signal:I have not been available for your invites or have not made similar invites of my own because:

  • I am so insanely busy that I have no time for anyone beyond the minimum needed to get by
  • I have very little time right now and am prioritising my friendships, focusing mostly on close friends, which you are not.
  • I am not as interested in you as you are in me and I am telling you that by not being available and/or not making similar invites
  • Our schedules honestly match poorly enough that although I would love to hang out it literally would not work (meaning that one is effectively living in another city)
  • For other reasons that affect many aspects of my life, I an not presently able to maintain friendships
There are, of course, other possibilities - some people almost never socially initiate, others are in an environment where proximity provides enough activity partners that they don't need to reach out to friends for them, and others have different cultural norms that bring about different behaviour. Most people I know, myself included, have a "backoff algorithm" with regards to indicating interests through invitations - if I want to hang out with someone more, I initially make a few invitations in a cluster, and if they bite then we eventually settle on an appropriate rate of hanging out as mutually (but not consciously) accepted. If they're unavailable, I keep decreasing the rate of such invites, eventually reaching an extremely infrequent rate, possibly eventually stopping altogether, possibly not, with my figuring that one of the above situations is at hand - if I want to keep pursuing things I keep making infrequent invites and/or hope to recieve one, at which time the "handshaking protocol" starts again. It's an inherently messy system, but because some people are anti-confrontational and some people have social norms preventing them from discussing status, it's almost universally used.

Finally, one can use body language when one actually is hanging out with someone (either because of invitations or because people agglomerated and didn't bother to seperate - the latter often a mark of an acquaintenceship in my terms) - various physical cues are there and we normally get them automatically. They are, however, often faked, and also don't really measure friendship potential - one might find someone amusing, pleasant, attractive, or otherwise with positive traits but these may not be enough to make them suitable for friendship (depending on what one needs/wants/etc in friends). These cues don't exactly measure friendship then, and they are usually far too blunt to get the signals one might want.

Back to open invitations - as appealing as they might be (possibly because they really don't want to send signals at all) to some people, this bollocks the system by removing meaning of social events. This hurts in two directions - they neither provide validation for the people one might appropriately invite nor do they adequately indicate to the others that they lack that status. This is not a problem when used sparingly, but when used heavily it means that one is not providing social signals one might - rather than feeling that person Z invited *me* for dinner, I might feel that they invited some empty slots that I took the initiative to fill. Truly open invitations differ from mostly open invitations in this way - when one takes the effort to choose people to call from those one knows (X was unavailable for dinner, so I called Y, and K, and Q, and ..), or when one hosts a party, one still provides such signals that a given person is worth spending time with. Broadcast messages to large groups or the whole world are not selective at all though - even to presumed friends one loses the distinctive capacity to quietly be telling someone one doesn't want to hang out anymore through this method. I think it's better to use such invites sparingly, if at all, to preserve meaning in social relations, which is why I probably won't use twitter or similar tools for invitations to meals, parties, and such - if I don't hear a voice on the phone or get an IM from someone specifically to me, I don't feel invited or esteemed, and in fact often haven't moved past my general feeling of not being particularly welcome in many social circles. I value this ant dance of invites insomuch as it works reasonably well to tell the truth of when and how people value each other (and/or are otherwise indisposed), and wonder at those who seem to do without it.

Largely unrelated, this is also partly why people who manage a large number of "friendships" confuse me a bit - how can one provide good social traction in so many friendships given the time most people have free? Either what those are are closer to acquaintences (or other things) by my definitions or they're not treating their friends very well. More often than not it's the first..

I sometimes wonder if these things are the most obvious and widely-accepted things in the world, areas of actual difference between a lot of people, or something else.

There's something amusing about trying to get 3 computers either interestingly in-sync or interestingly out-of-sync in playing the same music file.

I should mention that someone I know lost their dog by the name of Mochi somewhere in Shadyside. If you spot it, please let her know.

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