Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

18 Jan 2024, 12:16 p.m.

This Is A Part Of My Self, Too

You are a selected audience. That is to say, you have selected, yourself, to read this. You have a variety of reasons to do so, and I imagine that, for some of you, you do it to know me, to keep up with me, to understand me.

I don't write about everything here. But I do write about a LOT on my blog, and I've done so for over twenty years. And it's enough of a part of my way-of-being-in-the-world that I recently had cause to think about the division between my friends who keep up with it and my friends who don't.

Decades ago, I wrote: don't know a person via a weblog the same way you know 'em through face-to-face interaction. I'm not saying you know 'em better or worse, just differently, although I harbor a suspicion that you simply don't know someone as well if you just know 'em online...

After thousands of posts, and the beginnings and middles and trailings-off of so many friendships, I'm now reflecting on a converse of what I said then. That you simply don't know me as well if you only know me offline.

This came up because a new friend mentioned that they prefer not to read my site -- okay, many of my friends don't -- because they prefer to get information in person.

I'm sure that's a common preference in the general human population but rarer among my friends. I have met a lot of my friends in person but, even if we sometimes meet in person, a lot of how we keep up with each other is with remote communication: video calls, phone calls, emails, text messages, shared chat groups, shared social media platforms, and reading each other's weblogs.

I know I'm an allusive, hyperlinked sort of thinker (which has gotten in the way of my book-writing project, by the way), and I rather wish it were possible to just live Vannevar Bush's dream of the memex and share thought-lattices with others in a way language and technology currently don't allow (cue memories of that invention in Nancy Kress's Beggars in Spain scifi trilogy). But till we can do that, electronic text is the next best thing. It affords a way to know and be known as nothing else does. And I want that.

So I'm chewing on: what does this disorientation tell me about my habits, about the shapes of my relational self and my thinking self, and about what work would need to be done to maintain a friendship that would be so unusual for me?

And I'm grateful to you, for reading this, for being my reader, for wanting to know me in this particular way.


18 Jan 2024, 15:01 p.m.

Knowing you in any of these ways is a privilege!

18 Jan 2024, 15:42 p.m.


Azure Jane Lunatic
18 Jan 2024, 19:00 p.m.

More than a decade ago now, I decided that it was unsafe to add new dudes to the offline friends circle without knowing them online as well. That was after meeting "Mr. Evil" (he called himself something similar to that, and was annoyed that we pointed out that his name was the anagram of a common meme), and "AK-47 Guy" (fairly self-explanatory).

People at a social event are putting their best selves forward, and often they will be a little more honest online and without the immediate social feedback.