Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We Are All Digby Now

Sigh, woe to my sadly unkempt blogroll. I really have to update it one of these days. Prune out those sites that have gone the way of the buggy whip, like Billmon and Soluna. And maybe even plant a few more seeds. Oh, if I only had the time and the energy. Like any project, the longer I leave it the more daunting it grows and the easier it is to find another way to idyll away my time. If I ever do get around to it, though, you can rest assured that the almost criminal lack of a link to Hullabaloo would be one of the first mistakes I'd correct. Way back when this blog started, I added links as I wrote something about them. And the problem with Digby's pad is not finding something brilliant to just point at and nod. It's picking from all the amazingly insightful things to concentrate on just one at a time that I have difficulty with.

Anyhow, word is that sometime tonight, Digby's ultra top-secret identity will be revealed at a dinner at Take Back America. And while I wish the soon-to-be unanonymous architect of that great site nothing but the best I can't help but feel....odd about this. As you might guess from my own pseudonym, I'm pretty comfortable with that cloak of faceless namelessness that tumbling around the inter-tubes provides. Even though it seems to bother some people, I've had so many screen names and tags and handles in so many places that it's second nature to me. More importantly, I've known so many other people as only a string of text that I'm just as comfortable with the not knowing of others. Stared at so many posts and IMs and text messages that contain only the faintest hint of authorship that it doesn't matter to me. What matters isn't what someone looks like or even what their voice sounds like, all tinny and grainy on the other end of a VOIP, no, what matters is what they've written. It's those ideas, searing white hot right into my own mind that are important. Not where someone's from or what their accent sounds like. I'll even give them a pass on grammatical accuracy even though that one rankles a bit. It's where they're going. What they're getting at. Their thoughts and ideas that I care about. How well they express them. How they settle amongst my own. Anonymous, pseudonymous, or complete with a bio page and directions to their house to shake hands, whether or not I know their identity has nothing to do with how we interact.

And yet, somehow, it does. Knowing who someone is in, for lack of a better term, real life changes things somehow. Inevitably, irrevocably. It makes it realer, somehow. More visceral. Connecting not just on the level of cerebration but through some kind of deeper, more primal senses. The ones that let us recognize the humanity in and of others, I suppose. It's a weird feeling. Whether it's stumbling across a picture of a friend you've only ever known as a particular voice on a message board[1]. Or whether it's talking to a guildmate on vent, on teamspeak, on Skype, on the phone for the first time and realizing that they're about 13 years younger than you thought. Or the always jarring, “Dude, you're a girl/guy? I had no idea.” conversations. Or even just meeting that favorite author who's only ever been a portrait shoot on a book jacket to you. Somehow seeing them moving, the muscles in their face pushing and pulling as they sound out the words of that text you've been saying to yourself all along without realizing it, well, it's not bad, it's not good, but it's different. The kind of unsettling, awkward different that you're not sure you should even feel at all. All that you've imagined, all that you've conjectured, all the little details that you've never suspected you were filling in they get swept away and replaced by the mundane. And, for me anyway, it seems like that person is a little smaller. A little more ordinary. A little less imposing.

When you find out that, yeah, they're just a person after all.

Perils of the modern age, I suppose. But, still, you could mask over the alias and cover up all the identifying features and those words would still burn just as fiercely. That intellect would still be just as sharp as that tongue. And, somehow, losing that mask just makes the world a little less mysterious. Because when someone can be anyone, well, they just might be me. Or you. Or everyone else. Just another voice in the choir. Where the only thing that matters is just how well you sing out into the night. I might be the only one, though, but I've never cared to find out who Digby is. And more importantly just who she isn't. Because when you think there's a giant behind your shoulder, one you can't get a good, clean look at, but one who's thunderous voice is ringing off the rafters, well, it makes it a little easier to think your own can carry.

[1] – Not the only case where I've found a friend's face but, still, this is too good an opportunity to pass along misinformation to pass up. I don't care what anyone says. This is an impostor. Actors hired to play a role. There is no iQ. The real Ensign is a malevolent AI residing in a series of decommissioned, Cold War era computers. His only loves are logic, calculations, and Hello Kitty. I know, I've seen the server stacks.

No comments: