Monday, January 19, 2015

Technology and friendship

When I first started using Facebook, there would be great excitement whenever a connection to a long lost friend was reestablished. At that time, I accepted friend requests from close friends, acquaintances, remote relatives or even strangers. There wasn’t any filter whenever I shared my thoughts.

Overtime I realized despite the thousands of friends I had on Facebook, a great number of them was really strangers. Times and times again I found it inappropriate to discuss more personal matters openly. After some spring-cleaning, my friends are now people with whom I have had interactions, regardless how little. I figure that is the least I could do to keep my sanity on Facebook.

As social media became a part of my daily routine, I had a deeper understanding about friendship; not every good person we met could eventually become a closed friend. In his novel Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils (Tian Long Ba Bu), Louis Cha has a very vivid description of this exact predicament.

In this story, the only punishment of anyone who had committed the crime of betrayal to the boss was death. However, the boss could overrule the death penalty if he chose to cleanse the crime with his own blood. 

As the boss snatched away the knife from the accused when he tried to kill himself for his crime, the boss said, “I am like a cowboy and I do not like to hangout with people who are meticulous and calculative. I too like to drink and laughed loudly with friends. That is why although we work together, I usually choose to drink and make a lot of noise with the lower ranked members.  That is just how I am, and it does not mean that I have something against you. You never get drunk and are extremely careful in dealing with the gang business. This is a fine quality that I can never be better than you.”

Then he pierced the knife into his own shoulder to cleanse the crime of the accused.

In this story, Louis Cha pointed out that two great men may not be able to be close friends simply because of the differences in characters and belief, and not because someone else has committed some unspeakable sins.

And there are a great variety of people with different viewpoints and characters on my Facebook. Therefore, it could be challenging to discuss my viewpoints at times; and there have been unpleasant experiences where I offended people unknowingly.

To avoid such miscommunications, I chose not to say so much. Or I only share things that do not matter. Or I just come here to see my friend’s recent activities. And because of these reservations, a great platform on which we could build better friendship has deteriorated to something very skin-deep.

I am in the technology business. I once naively believed that technology could fix anything. I only understood after my 40th birthday that technology could not replace the warm feeling shared when having diner with my old folks, or the boisterous laughers cheered during drinking sessions with my buddies, or the creativity generated during brainstorming session with my partners. Physical contacts are still required to create fire.

In the Chinese character, we need to first have a heart before we can have a relationship. So in this new year, please give your loved ones a big bear hug.

January 18, 2015. Kuala Lumpur. 

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