Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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Practical Magic
  by Sara Ellis
February 2006

MySpace is Better than YourSpace

The anonymous nature of our society merged with the prevalence of the internet breeds an increase in strange personal coincidences. These coincidences with people slowly become either so numerous or so striking that our non-relationship with them becomes even more significant than the acquaintances of our daily lives.

Blogs and networking sites such as Friendster and the much more successful MySpace (anybody remember makeoutclub.com?) have made it easier than ever to keep tabs on otherwise perfect strangers. This can be great for keeping in touch with long distance friends, widening your social circle, and making professional connections. Most of the time, however; it serves as an arena for shameless high school behavior.

I am by no means innocent. I used to know this guy that I wanted to get to know a little better. A lot better. Okay, so I wanted to be the slash Kirk to his slash Spock. Problem was, he had this off-and-on-again girlfriend that lived out of town. In my pitifully optimistic brain she was obviously the only obstacle keeping our relationship from reaching warp speed.

I had to know who this girl was, and how to out-cool her. I found her online journal, and what had begun as a purely empirical investigation evolved into a nigh daily ritual of digging through her cyber trash and, well, trashing it.

My friends and I started checking out her journal together, passing judgments back and forth about how she obviously was a weak imitation of me. We shared many of the same interests, the same crush, and even the same hair. Of course I had that hair cut at least three years before she did, and of course that is the most important thing in the world when it comes to a person's intrinsic value.

It was so bizarre that I had never met this girl and yet I knew how she had spent her birthday, what her favorite movies were, and how much she used the F word. Our superficial similarities disconcerted me, and frustrated me to no end.

One day by accident I met this girl. I shook her hand and felt as though I had held hands with the Queen in Snow White. I swear my underpants froze.

It wasn't so harrowing simply because I disliked her, but because I disliked myself for what I had let myself become. My obsession with putting this girl beneath me had put me beneath compassion and charity.

I was so intent on being "better" than this girl that I scoured the thoughts she (perhaps naively) chose to share with the faceless masses for imperfections to exploit. This is not unlike the supermarket tabloids that have instigated our cravings for celebrity gossip for decades. It is much easier and more profitable to put someone's weakness on display, true or false, than to explore their humanity.

Therein lies the danger of a cumbersome yet isolated society such as ours. Anonymity breeds celebrity, but it also breeds antagonism without consequences. It feels perfectly okay to flick someone off on the 405 freeway because, hey, when are you ever going to see them again?

You'd be surprised. Interestingly, I still have run-ins with the online journal girl, she just doesn't know it. And she never will, if I can help it. We're not always so lucky.

My friend Emily laughs with self deprecation while recounting her experience with this karmic phenomenon. She was grocery shopping one day and a young man thought he would be a boy scout and move her cart out of the aisle while she was browsing elsewhere. He tried to excuse himself and she brushed his explanation off with polite disinterest. He then got in her way when she was trying to exit the store and she rolled her eyes as only a true southern girl can.

A few days later Emily and I went to the movies together, and she ran into the bathroom both amused and horrified that this same young man was the ticket taker, and that he might recognize her as that "snotty girl from grocery store." She felt bad that she had been so impatient with him, as well as enlightened to how easy it can be to run across the same people, even living in such a big city.

I was awakened to how true this can be, especially working in Santa Monica, where you tend to recognize faces more and more as time goes on. I've mentioned before that I work in a comic book store, and most of the time it is great. A wee bit of amusing notoriety comes with being a chick in a comic shop, but so does occasional chauvinism.

There are several guys (and girls!) that automatically assume I don't know anything about comics. A female coworker and I have literally had people see us behind the register and wait inordinate lengths of time for a male employee to answer their question that we often have the answer to.

One day I was particularly sensitive about this and was incredibly short and snotty to a nice young man that simply wanted to know if my incidentally male coworker was familiar with a graphic novel I couldn't find in the store for him. He even apologized for offending me, but I was entirely put off. After he left I saw the harmlessness of the situation, and felt utterly terrible.

I wished for about the hundredth time that week that I could apologize for my thoughtlessness and selfish actions. About a week later I was walking around on my lunch break when someone waved to me on the street. Lo and behold it was this same nice young man I had verbally slapped over an elusive Nick Fury comic.

He said he recognized me from the comic shop, and I admitted to recognizing him, too. He smiled at me and I earnestly apologized for my crappy behavior towards him. He acted surprised and said not to worry, there had been no offense taken. I now anticipate his visits with friendly enthusiasm as opposed to sickening dread.

Kindness, even towards strangers, really can be its own reward; especially when weighed against the potential of endless Catholic/Jewish/Mormon/< Insert Your Belief System Here> guilt. We are so often quick to judge those fleeting faces that dash in and out of our periphery, or that linger in the headlines.

Outlets like People Magazine and MySpace often blow people out of proportion, or seek to define an entire individual by edgy photo angles or elegantly twisted half truths. We view these basic facets of a person, see their boldest colors, and think we know them. But we really don't, and rarely is there that connection that comes with familiarity if perchance we meet.

So maybe people aren't made up of their strongest characteristics and tastes in music and movies, but all the in betweens. How they brush their teeth, why they are scared of the dark, how much they miss their mom, and what makes them embarrassed even when they are alone. Life doesn't happen in wide brush strokes; it happens moment by moment, layer by layer. It's only after we strive to embrace these tiny details that we get the big picture.

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