do we all live vicariously through others? October 25, 2001 8:14 AM   Subscribe

is it sad that i mark time by other people's lives? zeldman's mother passed away a year ago, and i clearly remember that time.

i have never met him in person, but the outpouring of love that one man received made a huge impression.

do we all live vicariously through others? is it the mark of a lonely person? or does being an online community member create a new form of emotional attachment, eg, caring a surprising amount for people you have never known?
posted by o2b to General Weblog-Related at 8:14 AM (10 comments total)

I think I'm a lonely person living vicariously through others in a new form of emotional attachment. The closest analogy to this new kind of relationship is a stalker. Stalkers follow their obsessions around, watching what they do, and caring about them like they were part of their lives. The difference, of course, is that bloggers are putting their lives/thoughts/ideas on display on purpose, but the disconnect between the observer and the observed is still there.
posted by owen at 9:23 AM on October 25, 2001

a Buddhist might say you have not suffered. i say...its ok-be happy
posted by clavdivs at 9:38 AM on October 25, 2001

This is an odd sort of synchronicity. I've been quiet for a few days here, in large part because I recently found out that the two-year old daughter of two dear friends of mine has been diagnosed with leukaemia, and I've been thinking about things.

I know it's making it all about me, and it most assuredly isn't, but the news about my friends given me some pause, in my daily life and online. I was really wondering, a while after I found out, about whether or not it was appropriate to mention it in some way here, as this is the place where I do most of my 'talking' and 'listening' in English, and if doing that would constitute a pathetic 'please pat me on the back I'm all sad' kind of thing.

But this thread has given me a reason to mention it, in a larger context. Being part of any community does create emotional resonances, I believe, and it's no less true for an online one. The people here (and not, I note, the 'place' itself, although in some sense the people are the place (thanks to Matt enabling it all)) have made me laugh, cry, rage, go damn near apoplectic (Metafilter : We put the 'pop' in apoplectic) at times, learn and stretch myself, feel embarrassed and ashamed, think and think some more about who I am and what I value.

Other communities of which I am a part, in 'The Real World', circles of friends and professional aquaintances and so on, have done the same, of course.

But the very fact that I seriously considered sharing the piece of bad news that I mentioned above with the people here, none of whom I have ever met, has indicated to me what a deep effect this place has had on me, at least. It doesn't surprise me at all how emotional people have gotten when Matt has talked about shutting it down, or how great a sense of ownership is evident when talk of self-policing arises. It's the emotional attachment that o2b mentions. I think it's a different thing than the sort of phenomenon that owen talked about above, and a much more positive one, even if it can be harrowing at times (like, most recently, the hincandenza and aaron brouhaha).

Other people have said it before, better than I. The fact that o2b remembers Zeldman's mother's passing, and notes the date, is a marvellous, wonderful thing. They've never met, but, at least in one direction, there is a kind of bond between them. At the risk of veering of into sentimentality here, which is most assuredly not my bag, daddy-o, the bonds between people are the single most important reason there is (for me at least) to be alive.

(Sorry for the length.)

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:08 PM on October 25, 2001

Stavros: it occurred to me as I read your comments above, how odd it was without you here the past couple of days. In a community as large and diverse as this, and with everything going on, I was able to notice you were gone.

And I don't say this to toot my own horn, but to say that how amazing it seems to me that when you spend enough time here (some of us, way too much--and I am looking towards Portugal right now), you start to think of people you've never met as friends.

I used to make fun of people who talked about the friends that they made online. Now, not so much.

As someone who also got bad news this week, let me just say that the thoughts of someone you've never actually met are on a child that he knows nothing about. And even though he's mostly an atheist (or at best, a really, really bad Catholic) he's saying a few prayers. Peace be with you.
posted by ColdChef at 9:12 PM on October 25, 2001

hopes and well wishes to your friends and their daughter, stavros.

It's a vital, human element of our lives, that we can care about things without being personally tied to them. It's what makes it possible to be happy for people even when their successes don't benefit you, and to sacrifice your own interests in order to help complete stangers. There isn't anything sad about it (to speak to the very first question here) -- not in the slightest.
posted by mattpfeff at 9:13 PM on October 25, 2001

do we all live vicariously through others? No.

is it the mark of a lonely person? No.

or does being an online community member create a new form of emotional attachment, eg, caring a surprising amount for people you have never known? Yes.

I miss people when they don't post for days at a time. I think is so and so on vacation, out of pocket, ill, or having problems. I have friends offline that care about, in a different way than those I've "meet" online.

stavros, hope your friends kiddo is okay. Good treatments out there for leukemia these days.

posted by bjgeiger at 4:52 AM on October 26, 2001

Stavros is a real friend. A lot of my so-called real friends are way more off-line than he is. Here at Metafilter we all bare our hearts and so strangers can cut to the chase and get to know each other that much quicker. It's not "therapy", as some say. It's honesty. I remember how happy I was when Max, Kafkaesque's nephew, was born. It might also be selfishness, i.e., cheer stavrosthewonderchicken up so he can continue amusing us and making us think.
It's brave to come out with things instead of misdirecting worry and grief into aggression or nonsense. Well, not nonsense then, considering who we're talking about. :-)
What a guy! I miss you terribly, have been teasing and soliciting you, in the most whorish way, for two days now. So rejoin the gang as soon as you possibly can, before all the wind goes out of our sails.
I'm with bjgeiger - things will only get better for the little girl from now on.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:18 AM on October 26, 2001

It's true. Miguel was very ebullient in his vicarious joy at my avuncularness.

You're a swell guy Mr Cardoso. It's hard to believe your wide-eyed optimism isn't a front sometimes. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone about your plans world domi–

posted by Kafkaesque at 8:58 AM on October 26, 2001

It is like crack. I love this place, but sometimes I fucking hate it too.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:06 AM on October 26, 2001

sounds like my family...
posted by o2b at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2001

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