Saturday, January 19, 2013

How "real" are your relationships?

I know there's a lot of important stuff going on in the world - the economy, fighting in the Middle East, world poverty.  And there's important stuff going on in my own little world - swim meets, PTA meetings, school projects and homework.  And there's important stuff I need to be doing - Girl Scout cookie orders, sorority committee, writing.

That's why I generally do not follow celebrity gossip (if I hear anymore about a certain celebrity's out-of-wedlock-while-married pregnancy...but why say "if"?)  But this football player and his virtual girlfriend? Ahh - I'm so hooked, I can't wait for the movie.  If perhaps, unlike my house, your TV and radio are not stuck on ESPN and sports radio and you've somehow missed all the news updates and late night jokes, just google "Manti Teo" (he's even got a wikipedia entry!) to catch up.

The story is fascinating and I can't even pinpoint exactly why.  It just is.  Here's just a couple reasons why I'm so intrigued.  (Aside from the fact that I had no idea that there were Mormon Samoans - don't judge me, I'm adding this to my "things I learned today" file.)

The whole online relationship thing.  I think the football dude did get duped.  I know, I know - many of you are screaming "how could he not know!" "how could he have a 100% online relationship?"
We all have them.  Those online friends that we never actually talk to in person, we know their lives via FaceBook updates and Instagram photos.  We still call them our "friends" and we feel like we are close.  Maybe they're an old high school classmate or someone you met somewhere and now you don't even know how you know them but feel bad un-friending them.  And when we talk to other people about one of their status updates or tweets, we say "Suzy said blah blah blah" as if we actually had a conversation with them.  You feel connected to those people and if something bad were to happen to them (car accident, terrible illness) you would genuinely feel sad for them.

On the one hand, this is a good thing that we are still wanting to make these quasi-social connections, it shows our desire for human relationships.  But what about our real friends, the ones who you actually have their phone number and could call them but haven't?  Are we all getting too comfortable with these arms-length relationships that don't require any real emotional commitment?  I don't mean emotional in a love-for-life type of way, but your online interactions don't require what face-to-face friends do - like your time at the moment when they need you, you to listen, you to meet up and get a drink or a slice of cake.  We can pretend to be social without any real personal investment.

How does this stuff make the news?  I can see why this makes ESPN, the guy's a college football player and was a Heisman contender which (as I've learned from my household football expert) is quite a big deal because he's a lineman, who hardly ever never win the Heisman, and all the publicity about this alleged-girlfriend may have helped him to get noticed so he would become a contender.   (So, yes, there is motive, here, which if you are a CSI junkie, you are adjusting your dark sunglasses and thinking "ah-ha!")  But why does it make the general news and CNN and is a crawl across the TV screen while I'm on the treadmill?  No one was hurt (not a real person anyway), nothing of value (cash, credit cards, gift cards) exchanged hands, no harm was done to anyone.  Okay, there were a bunch of people who were sad and sympathetic with him during the season, but they didn't suffer a real loss.  So why do the rest of us even care?

Are we getting lazy?  Its easy when everyone's talking about the same thing, rather than having to have long drawn out conversations explaining stuff.  "Did you hear about that football guy?" "Yeah. Crazy, huh?"  "Yeah.  Pass the chips."  How is easy is that?  But what if you had to go into details and explain an idea you had or a book you read or something else you experienced?  Imagine the energy you would have to exert in telling it and the concentration required by the person listening.  We'd actually have to pay attention to one another.

Folks are falling all over the fence on this story.  Yes, its a hoax.  But what part did he play in it, is the question.  People can't believe that he actually would've thought he was in a relationship with a girl he never met.  But think about your own relationships.  Have you gotten lazy with the people you know?  Have you picked up the phone and heard the voice and laughter of a friend recently?

How real are your relationships?

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