Category Archives: Communication

wedding speech for my best friend

Introduction

Based on a case study of two young adults engaging in an ambiguous relationship with uncertain outcome, this study investigates how computer-mediated communication (CMC), and more specifically the exchange of private messages on Facebook, could encourage greater intimacy between two potential romantic partners. Conducted by request of one of the two subjects studied who has been suffering from a chronic lack of affection, this study seeks to help her to better infer the meaning of the verbal cues sent by the male subject.

First, I will carry out a close reading of private messages exchanged by the two informants during moments of heightened communication on Facebook (identified by the female subject). The concept of online self-disclosure, i.e. the disclosing of personal information, thoughts and feelings that are not easily shared in an offline context, will provide the main theoretical framework for my analysis. In interpreting these messages, I will take into account the offline events occurring on the same days, events that might be referred to in the text. Second, the textual analysis will be completed by interviews with the female subject on the perceived intimacy between her and the male subject, as well as her memoirs of their offline interactions.

The purpose of this study is not to predict relationship outcome based on the degree of self-disclosure, hence intimacy, but to assist the female subject in her own evaluation. Ultimately, it could perform a therapeutic function by offering the female subject a momentary distraction from her agony through an engaging, insightful and completely rubbish reading.

– Work in progress –

expectation

What does it mean when we say that something is “beyond expectation” or “more than we expected”?

To expect: mid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘defer action, wait’): from Latin exspectare ‘look out for’, from ex- ‘out’ + spectare ‘to look’ (frequentative of specere ‘see’).

Expectation is centered on the future. The future is unknown and uncertain. Expectation reflects a psychological (existential?) need to make this future more manageable, i.e. the need to control.

“Beyond expectation”, in everyday language, indicate the quality of being great, excellent, exceptional, unique; more than what we thought would be the case. It is usually a positive evaluation. It is almost never applied to oneself, but always to somebody else’s performance or behavior. Because it is the Other that represents the unknown.

A surprise is something not expected, i.e. something outside the horizon of possibilities that one has envisioned. It is antonymous to normalcy, the norm. So when expectation is directed toward a person, it acts as a norm, an evaluation, a script to perform according to, thus linked to the idea of social norms, of accordance with a set of rules. What is expected means what is normal, i.e. conforming to a standard, typical, usual. It is also predictable: something known beforehand.

When we do not have sufficient clues about an other, we cannot put her in any existing category that structures our own interpersonal framework. Therefore, we cannot assign that person to any behavior or performance script. In other words, we do not have expectation about that person. “We do not know what we do not know”. However, as mentioned before, expectation characterizes a more general psychological pattern. It is fundamental to help human beings orient themselves in life. It is an inevitable attitude towards the future. Therefore, by conventions of language, we still say that someone is beyond expectation even though we do not have any expectation about that specific person. It should be simply interpreted as a compliment on that individual’s exceptionality.

There is a slightly different nuance of meaning in French: “beyond expectation” is translated as “dépasser les attentes (de quelqu’un)”. Expectation is waiting for something that might or is likely to come, but whose existence is not confirmed until its actual occurrence. Waiting has a taste of yearning in it, which is more sentimental. However, the idea remains the same: it implies a movement forward in time. In the end, it boils down to how human beings relate to everything that constitutes the Other, i.e. what is outside the present self, the unknown, be it the future or an immediate other reality.

performative love

John Austin distinguishes two types of speech: constative and performative. A constative refers to an existing reality, declaring such reality to be the case. A performative produces a new reality. Most speeches fall into the first category, as speaking, writing, and verbal language in general are conventionally considered to describe/express things. But the performative does not express anything. It performs, acts, does things. Example are the “I promise”, “I swear”, “I order you to”, “I accept”, “I declare”, and the famous “I do” in a wedding ceremony. These sentences are neither true or false. The very reality that it “expresses” comes into being with the utterance.

Roland Barthes wrote that the sentence “I love you” (Je t’aime) is a performative. It does not express what the amorous subject feels, on the contrary, it is said with the desire to produce an effect, “I expect you to return my love”. Even the subject herself, by saying “I love you”, reifies her love: I do not love you until I declare my love for you.

I think that not only performative utterances as in Austin’s category are performative, but all speeches are. Do we not always have the feeling that something is not real until it is said? The signifier, i.e. the written word or the acoustic voice, does not exist independently from the signified, i.e. the meaning, the concept, the mental representation of “the thing”. The same way humans are embodied subject and the mind is not separated from the body, meanings and (written/spoken) words are not two distinct entities, but come into being together.

I often think that language is the public life of ideas, feelings, or whatever abstract thing it conveys. The love that is kept secret is private. Once spoken, it takes up a social existence. It exists in the eye of the Other, be it the lover or society. This leads me to reflect on the nature of being itself: do we exist without being recognized by others? Is a solipsist existence possible?

When two people are in a relationship, they make it official by announcing it to their family and friends circles. “Official: having the approval or authorization of an authority or a public body.” The idea of authority and publicity is central here. Such public approval marks the moral distinction between an official, recognized relationship, one that exists in the light, and a love affair, one that is kept secret. Love is a thing between two individuals. Is it? I’m not so sure. It depends on whether you take the perspective of love-for-love’s-sake, or love as embedded in a wider web of social relations.

Years of being in a long-distance and secret relationship, i.e. one that was not known to everyone in my circles and was intended to be so, has resulted in my profound skepticism of the reality of love. On one hand, recognition acts as a kind of social surveillance that makes sure that you stay faithful to your partner, otherwise there will be severe public sanction. In the end, it makes the love real. Two people are in love because they are so in the eyes of others. But then it is not a private thing anymore. On the other hand, if this love is not made official, as it was in my case, then it feels like it does not exist at all. My partner had a social life of which I was not a part. So when he took on his other social roles (than the role of being my lover), our love’s existence was dismissed. He could very well have another lover, as secret as I was, that I did not know anything about.

In the end, what is real? How do we know that feelings are real? Do we need words and social conventions to make them real?

I often imagine myself waking up one day only to find out that it has all been a hoax, or an illusion. Nothing personal, though. I imagine that I could delete all the proofs that testify our love, and there will be no trace, no evidence left. Would it still exist then? But then I remember how feelings could be so deeply engraved in one’s heart. After all, the things that we cannot erase by a physical gesture are the most difficult, if not impossible, to remove.

the switch

Years of being in long-distance relationship with my close ties while having a strong need for intimacy has frequently led me to reflect on being disconnected. In the age of constant mediated connection, disconnectivity might very well be a sign of longing for more meaningful, bodily contact.

When people learn about the “story of my life”, they always ask – very understandably – if I don’t miss my family and my home country. I just casually reply that I get used to it. If I say so, no further explanation is needed. But of course it’s more complicated and ambiguous than that. I only know that talking about it and sinking in nostalgia don’t help because it’s not gonna change anything. What matters is how to cope with it. At the same time, I’m not a rational and positive person who leads her life with efficiency. I do miss everything. But it’s just not as simple as saying “Oh I miss my dog so much, can’t wait to get home”. Or writing long facebook posts on special occasions. It’s a big deal to me. Conventional ways of expressing emotions are not fulfilling enough.

I just think about all this today, how I feel about my life, when I come across a photo of the light switches that I took back at home in summer. I can’t remember what was so fascinating about them that I had to immortalize them. But the switch is quite a good metaphor. Let’s say that my life as a whole has a control board with many switches; each gives access to a singular life among my many lives that is attached to a specific location, a specific period of time, specific people and so on. Each time I leave a place, I just switch it off the same way I turn off the light when leaving a room. It will still be there, intact, autonomous, ready to be re-activated at any time, only I will not look back into it while I’m away. I will not have a security camera installed inside the room to occasionally check in from a distance. That means I will not call my parents everyday or Skype with them every week, I will not share every instant of my life, every activity, every meal, every acquaintance that I make, etc. Same with my boyfriend (also because he doesn’t talk to me but that’s another story). Somebody once told me that “It’s the little details that keep the relationship going on”, maybe she had her point but we can’t deny that such details are totally irrelevant to one’s life if one is not in it. Trivial incidents are not meant to last; they are only significant at the very instant of their occurrence – that’s why they’re part of the “daily” life, not the Life.

I see myself becoming increasingly individualistic and unconcerned with moral standards, and my extended horizon of cares only reduces my capacity for affection. I’m not bothered by it. I’m not bothered by anything at all. I’ve drifted too far from the life in community.

Now let’s step out of this egocentric perspective. In fact, I’m also just a room in someone else’s life. It’s very likely that they can switch me off. When I’m the one being shut down, I can’t complain. Each has their own way of coping with change and distance.

Cutting ties

B. reports that she had a fugitive encounter with C. In the past, they had been involved in accidental exchanges with a low degree of intimacy and self-disclosure; notwithstanding, B. considers at the present moment that these contacts remain without impact on the evolution of their affinity. In addition, she acknowledges C.’s limited investment in the formation of a profound relation with her, which proves her attraction towards him to be unidirectional. As a matter of fact, they have never been mutually emotionally involved. Neither did he publicly demonstrate at any time his appreciation of her affection for him.

In consequence of her disillusionment, she presently experiences emotional distress, which leads to her avoidance of the aforementioned male subject. This attitude is manifested through highly associable behaviours towards the former potential romantic partner, for example fleeing at his sight, one that can be interpreted as a defence mechanism against probable disappointments caused by the unattainable object of affection. Therefore, she actively cuts the ties that she initiated.

A cat in campus.

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I’ve got used to cats walking around my campus like a boss. After all, there’s nothing curious about it: this is a public space. Even though cats are individualists and somewhat arrogant creatures (ils s’en fichent de toi), I’d stand on their side if they despise humans for cuddling them without permission.

In the same way, we give ourselves the right to approach people whose status make them more likely to be exposed to random interactions (according to Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everday Life). One example is elderly people, who are supposed to not having much to do in their life. Therefore, we are not afraid to waste their time, or we offer our help because we think they can’t manage on their own. Another example: lonely people, who systematically received sympathy because people think they must be craving for companionship. We do what we think is right, without pausing for a moment to see things from their perspectives.

A pet is normally treated as an object, because it’s cute, fluffy and idle. We touch it for our pleasure then walk away. So either the cat is not in the position to defend itself, or it is too smart to refuse the game (and it enjoys your admiration instead).

I saw the cat passionately wash itself after being caressed by a group of students.