Saturday, May 27, 2023

Knowing Someone

[Originally published in the Monroe News on May 26, 2023]

How well do you really know someone?  Do you have to spend time with somebody to get to know them?  Can you know someone by writing through the mail or over the internet?  The ways of communication in our day and age have really stretched this question to the limits.

Consider how we use social networks, I follow a number of athletes and other public personalities.  Many share their personal stories, their highs, their lows, even some about their family. You almost get the sense you know them. By following somebody like this you might learn their favorite vacation spot or their favorite food.  If I follow someone who shares a lot I might begin to give myself the sense that I’ve come to know them.  I’ll form opinions about them.  I’ll assume I know the way they think about things. But do I really know them?  If I met them on the street would I be able to pick up with them like old friends? Of course, the answer is no.  In all of this there is an inescapable point: this is one-sided.  I might think I know them, but they certainly don’t know me.

And the truth is, I almost certainly don’t know the other person as well as I think.  When it comes to social media, people tend to be very selective in what they share about themselves, giving a picture of a life that is quite likely far from reality.  It isn’t hard for me to share all of the good things I do and the highlights of my life giving the impression I’ve got it all figured out, while at the same time hiding all the lows and the challenges and struggles.  

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