A virile self pity…

I never complained that my birthday was overlooked; people were even surprised, with a touch of admiration, by my discretion on this subject. But the reason for my disinterestedness was even more discreet: I longed to be forgotten in order to be able to complain to myself. Several days before the famous date (which I knew very well) I was on the alert, eager to let nothing slip that might arouse the attention and memory of those on whose lapse I was counting (didn’t I once go so far as to consider falsifying a friend’s calendar?). Once my solicitude was thoroughly proved, I could surrender to the charms of a virile self pity.

                                   ~ Albert Camus, “La Shute”

Like Jean-Baptiste Clamence, I used this as a tool to affirm my possibly unreasonable but quite strong views on the online world. With no Social Networking Bot to remind them, I imagined my online friends would remain oblivious to my birthday yesterday. I figured we’ve all become a bit pathetic – we click things without thinking about them, we respond to Bot-suggested niceties… “say hello” to this person, “wish happy birthday” to that. We do these things on auto-pilot but, without the prompt, probably wouldn’t do them at all – and this, to my mind, renders them pretty worthless gestures.

I’d become quite cynical about it all.

I didn’t particularly like feeling so negative. It’s all in that last line – surrender to the charms of a virile self pity – so I rose early on my birthday morning to seek this book, this particular snippet, to remind myself of Camus’ observation… how this kind of self-satisfaction is not a pretty trait.

Jean-Baptiste is a particularly unpleasant character because he represents the darker side to us all. Nothing else I’ve read quite sums up the human beast as much as this monologue. He is Everyman on truth serum. It makes for uncomfortable reading (though I’d recommend the book to anyone… it’s sublime).

In conversation with the lovely Jane Alexander, I mentioned my cynicism – how it was my birthday, how I hadn’t displayed this date publicly because I’d rather have no birthday wishes than a host of Bot-induced ones from people who ordinarily have nothing to say to me. I admitted I was probably being grumpy and over-cynical but, hey-ho, doesn’t the online world make you feel like that sometimes? I said.

So the mischievous Jane wished me a happy birthday publicly and over the next few hours I was amazed how many more birthday messages appeared – on both Facebook profiles, by email and on the Authomony forum thread she also started in my honour. It made me feel SO ashamed for all the negative thoughts I’d had! Here were people not merely clicking into a convenient little box proffered by the Bots, but taking time to visit my pages and write a personal message.

Thanks, Jane, and thanks everyone else for quashing my cynicism and adding an extra layer of cheer to my birthday in the process!

(I reckon Jean-Baptiste Clamence wouldn’t have stood a chance against the might that is Jane Alexander…)

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10 Replies to “A virile self pity…”

  1. Nobody stands a chance against the might that is Jane Alexander.Wouldn't want to fall out on your wrong side, either.I'm glad to hear your cynical armor got Dented. Looking at all those messages one can’t help but realize how much respect you command. No, scratch that. How much people like/love you. As it should be.- B

  2. He he! Good old (can I say that in this context?) Jane! I think a degree of cynicism towards FB and other places is not only healthy but necessary. I do worry when I see these posts from people claiming that they don't have many friends outside of FB and don't know what they'd do without the 'friends' they have on-line. It's ok if they've met them and the on-line world is another medium of communication but if not, what would happen to these people if the recession hit epidemic proportions, power cut and people rationed to 30 mins on-line a day? Or more likely, the on-line world got so overloaded, it simply broke and we had to go back to the old days of going out to meet people and then being forced to speak to them.However, I don't think you need to worry!Having met you, I know your friends on-line will be writing/reader/based on real friendships related and if you end up having banter with these people, why not? Billions of people have decided it's a pleasant thing to do. And if these people end up reading your work because of it, all the better :)Writers are bound to be drawn to social networking aren't they? It's writing, after all.If you communicate on-line with someone you know is kosher, I think you can get an idea of character (Trolls aside). I say this because all the writers I've met through authonomy etc. who I've gone on to meet, have been as I expected. Even lovely, scarily witty, you, ha ha!You know, I never respond to a poke about someone's birthday (bah humbug). Firstly, because I'm never sure whether to believe it – my birthday isn't listed on my page but it's the wrong one anyway, paranoid on-line user that I am, and secondly because I do find it a bit naff, the Send birthday wishes now, or, Give em a poke (what is that all about?) or, Tell them who they should be friends with and even, Choose a photo for them. Eh? If I want to do any of that, I shall do it my way, thanks very much FB. Looks like we've all got a bit of Jean Baptiste.in us. PS Is it too late to wish you happy birthday??

  3. Thanks, Jackie… never too late for birthday wishes – in fact there's an argument to say they should be given out randomly, as they feel far less dutiful that way!Yes, I think we agree on a lot about these online places. I get alarmed at times too – not least by how much some people appear to rely on these places for emotional support etc. I think it breeds a cycle of dependency that's quite unnerving. Yes, there are good sides too. As a Libran I'm drawn to balance and think the scales of virtual vs real should hover in a gently horizontal position at worst, but tip in favour of the real at best… and, of course, should be forcibly re-calibrated if they threaten to dip in that other, more dangerous, direction for a prolonged length of time.

  4. Hear hear! I've just put you on my top three bloggers, you lucky person! Seriously, please be flattered, I was sweating having to pick only three so just went for the three that stick most in my mind. Carry on blogging, you!

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