In the past we transgressed many boundaries, wandering into the lives of others, into private homes, into relationships between people. A website: a gateway. We wandered in where we were not invited, entering private realms, unconscious of the realities of virtual worlds. We came to demand and expect; to cherish and hold; to love and admire. We befriended strangers and suddenly, unknowingly, transgressed boundaries well established.
What causes these meanderings of the mind at midnight? The chatter on the street outside, even at this hour, the sudden heat drawing neighbours together, shunning their beds? Or an encounter with abandoned websites on the internet, with all of those departing remarks followed by great eulogies in the comments?
Tis perhaps just a realisation that has been dawning on me over recent months. The wife of a close friend of mine has started keeping a blog. My reaction to it? The same as if I were a guest in his home: to lower my gaze, keep my eyes down, to mind my own business. Yes, though it exists in the wilds of the web, I do not approach it, seek to read it and certainly not entertain the thought of leaving comments. The notion of doing otherwise feels so alien, and yet this is exactly what happened with the scores of disembodied voices now departed. Somehow a kunya became a nickname, not a title or a reminder of the status of the individual as a mother and a wife, or as a father and a husband.
Would I engage my friend’s wife in deep conversation on a visit to his home? We barely exchange greetings, except for generic salams at the door. No, no, there are barriers: lowered gazes, doors, walls, dress and expectations. What was it that removed the shyness and modesty from our hearts on the world wide web? What was it that removed our self-restraint, that inhibited the lowered gazes of our typing fingers, that knocked down the virtual walls? Was it the unreality of a stranger’s life, the apparition of existence? Or was it simply the negligence of the writer and the reader in tandem?
Now on Facebook strangers dance a jig. On a forum they do a waltz. On Twitter they do the tango. For his audience the writer must perform. What followings we have, what quaint interactions. What a brave new world. What a new way to live.
In this time of disregard, we transgress many a boundary, wandering into the lives of others, into private homes, into relationships. We wander in where we are not invited, entering private realms, unconscious of the realities of virtual worlds. We come to demand and expect; to cherish and hold; to love and admire. We befriend strangers and suddenly, unknowingly, transgress boundaries once secure.