never married, over forty, a little bitter


In so much as my current existence is bearable, the internet makes it so.  The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is surf the web, check Facebook, peruse my favorite websites, and write on my blog.  This morning my electricity was down and, seeing that I couldn’t get on the web, I went back to bed.  I don’t know what would rouse me every morning if the internet didn’t exist.

Ditto at work… a little surfing here and there keeps ennui and despair at bay.

I wonder, though, if having this safety blanket, the very thing that enables so many of us to live without deep, satisfying real life connections, is causing that very thing.  As I’ve written before, I was initially hopeful that Facebook would lead to real life encounters, but it has rarely done so.  Yes, I’ve gotten more generic invitations to events, but it hasn’t led to more personal connections.  Still, without it, I would be lost.

When I wrote before that sometimes I feel like I’m in a vise, it is also because I only have a few family members left, and they unfortunately are not people I can turn to when I’m feeling down.  Not having a close family leads even more to that sense that there’s nobody out there to connect to on a deep, meaningful level.

I was reminded of all this again when a woman I know got into a relationship from an online dating site, immediately changed all her Facebook pictures to “her and him,” moved in with the guy shortly thereafter, posted all their subsequent trip photos, posted their engagement day photos, and then asked her friends (over Facebook) to send their addresses in for wedding invitations.  All this without a single phone call or actual conversation between us.  It’s almost like coupling as a series of advertisements.

Looks like I need to read this book:

We’re all uprooted and anxious now. Such, at least, is the contention of Zygmunt Bauman in this riveting and important book. Admittedly there’s little in the way of specific class analysis here, for it is Bauman’s view that all our traditional bonds are loosening their choke-holds. Those purportedly fixed and durable ties of family, class, religion, marriage and perhaps even love (we’ll come back to that tricky notion) aren’t as reliable or as desirable as they were. It’s fitting that Bauman is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds because, nearly half a century after Hoggart’s book, West Yorkshire has spawned another sociological account of anxiety and vertigo in a rootless society.

…Sisyphus had it easy. The work of the liquid modern is likewise never done, but it takes much more imagination. Bauman finds his hero working everywhere – jabbering into mobile phones, addictively texting, leaping from one chat room to another, internet dating (whose key appeal, Bauman notes, is that you can always delete a date without pain or peril). The liquid modern is forever at work, forever replacing quality of relationship with quantity.

What’s the significance of all this anxious work? For Bauman, the medium isn’t the message – the new gadgets we use hardly determine who we are. Nor are the messages that people send each other significant in themselves; rather, the message is the circulation of messages. The sense of belonging or security that the liquid modern creates consists in being cocooned in a web of messages. That way, we hope, the vexing problem of freedom and security will disappear.

We text, argues Bauman, therefore we are. “We belong,” he writes, “to the even flow of words and unfinished sentences (abbreviated, to be sure, truncated to speed up the circulation). We belong to talking, not what talking is about . . . Stop talking – and you are out. Silence equals exclusion.” Derrida was on to something when he wrote ” Il n’y a pas dehors du texte,” though not for the reason he supposed. It is that the fear of silence and the exclusion it implies makes us anxious that our ingeniously assembled security will fall apart.


Take sex first. Kaufmann argues that in the new world of speed dating, online dating and social networking, the overwhelming idea is to have short, sharp engagements that involve minimal commitment and maximal pleasure. In this, he follows the Leeds-based sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who proposed the metaphor of “liquid love” to characterise how we form connections in the digital age. It’s easier to break with a Facebook friend than a real friend; the work of a split second to delete a mobile-phone contact.

In his 2003 book Liquid Love, Bauman wrote that we “liquid moderns” cannot commit to relationships and have few kinship ties. We incessantly have to use our skills, wits and dedication to create provisional bonds that are loose enough to stop suffocation, but tight enough to give a needed sense of security now that the traditional sources of solace (family, career, loving relationships) are less reliable than ever. And online dating offers just such chances for us to have fast and furious sexual relationships in which commitment is a no-no and yet quantity and quality can be positively rather than inversely related.

After a while, Kaufmann has found, those who use online dating sites become disillusioned. “The game can be fun for a while. But all-pervasive cynicism and utilitarianism eventually sicken anyone who has any sense of human decency. When the players become too cold and detached, nothing good can come of it.” Everywhere on dating sites, Kaufmann finds people upset by the unsatisfactorily chilly sex dates that they have brokered. He also comes across online addicts who can’t move from digital flirting to real dates and others shocked that websites, which they had sought out as refuges from the judgmental cattle-market of real-life interactions, are just as cruel and unforgiving – perhaps more so.