Love Letters: A Psychological Study.

… Although I wish we had I bet we wouldn’t still be.

– A love letter in an inbox.

I began an affair once upon a time, derived entirely of letters. Years ago now actually. It– in and of itself– lasted three long, strong years. And this week, as I’ve been filing all of my word documents, and collating my photographs and trying, urgently, patiently, to make some semblance of a coherent masterpiece out of my book– I happened upon a rather large file of love letters exchanged between he and I, once upon a time.

I blushed as I re-read. Goodness. I was a firecracker back then. Unhappy. Really unhappy. And really, really in to this guy. Great.

It was a peculiar arrangement. As most of mine, I’m being reminded of, have always been. Peculiar.

I met this man at a club. A club I used to perform frequently in. We got to talking and talked and talked and talked all night long. We walked through the city of T– he pointing at things and asking– I with a belly full of booze, explaining the lay of the land to this charming new British thing.

An extraordinary night. Really. I had a ball.

I liked this guy instantly.

I usually like or dislike people instantly.

But this was more like fireworks and articulate English sentences all at once, up in flames. Loud. Bold. Brilliant.

He was good at talking.

He was good with words.

He was ENGLISH.

Around 5am, after much walking and much more talking, I came to the conclusion that whatever was going to happen next would require some semblance of sobriety. So I proposed the ritual of eating.

We went to nearest Yoshinoya and he consumed his first raw egg on rice with beef. He lapped that shit up. I remember it well. I also remember trying not to stare. He was so beautiful to me. Even with a mouth full of raw egg, guns a blazing with awkward chopsticks and this nervous little British laugh. So funny. So charming. So not from here.

As we finished our meals I popped the question.

“So, ar… What’s the plan?”

And with that we made a b-line for the train station where by I asked again,

“So what’s the plan?”

“Well…” He began… “My hotel is in Shinjuku. And your flat is in Ebisu.”

“Ar har.”

I smiled, broadly.

“Alex darling, I think I’m going to go home. I’ll call you later in the day.”

And with that we parted ways.

There was an embrace, a kiss of sorts. But it was all over and our trains were leaving in opposite directions soon enough.

Damn.

Ok.

That’s ok.

He did call the next day. Which actually confused me. I hadn’t expected him to. And he had. Interesting. I invited him to a gig I was playing that night in Shibuya and he arrived early, all tidy looking. Keen, in a sense. Also interesting…

I played my little heart out that night. I made loads of jokes and opened up my pipes big and wide, all the better for him to hear. I made certain my fingers played perfectly, or at least I tried–  I wanted him to think I was superwoman. And to be fair, by the end of the night, I kinda had the inkling that he did.

It was to be my final in Tokyo for sometime and as such I found myself being bombarded by people after the show. Unable to break free, and go see about a boy.

It was a virtual impossibility.

I could see him out of the corner of my eye all night long, and I was hell bent on ensuring he stayed within view.

Just before last train he approached me, thanked me for the music, then said he  and his friend were leaving…

“Stay.”

I said for everyone to hear. Surprising myself as the four, small letters jumped out of my mouth and out in to his ears.

“Please stay.”

“I’ve got to go Alex. I’ve got to get up early. I’m going road-tripping, you see.”

“Ok.”

And that was the last time I ever saw him.

But he phoned the next day, and the next. And we talked for  an age and I just grew to like him more and more and more.

A lot.

Really quickly.

He was beautiful.

So beautiful.

And then began the emails. They came in thick and fast and maintained momentum for three long years. Three years. I know. Three. Madness.

I’d won a writing competition soon after we met, which was inclusive of a return flight to Heathrow from Tokyo for my efforts. I’d informed him of this small victory and he was delighted to learn I was making something of myself, and potentially going to be in the same city as he, again.

Entirely devoid of haptic happenings, I was baffled as to how long we managed to keep this thing up. A long time. Years.

I dreamt about him frequently. In Paris. In Tehran. In Athens.

Never in Tokyo.

From this, I devised that perhaps this thing was ours to have at a later date. And from the looks of things, most likely in Europe.

As I stumbled upon his old file of emails in my hotmail today I re-read with newer, older eyes and found something really beautiful, if not long gone.

And I didn’t cry.

I giggled a lot actually.

We were funny, he and I. Banging on about the planet. Trying to change the world. Listening to a lot of music. A lot.

There’s a word for relationship derived entirely of letters. I was reminded of this earlier this week when editing an old, old story, trying to give new breath. New jazz.

But I’ve been googling the word for most of the morning and it appears that I may have made it up.

I may have invented this word.

It may be a fiction of sorts.

A byproduct of my imagination.

Which, in turn, has lead me to this essay on digital based relationships, which is intriguing in its brevity and coherence.

Here.

E-mail is a form of communication that is increasingly becoming a part of people’s normal lives. There is less of a sense of social presence using email (Sproull & Kiesler, 1984). The lack of tactile sensory feedback and the privacy of being in ones own home contribute to a different sense of being connected socially. This “makes it easier to contact strangers because there is less concern about rude intrusion or interpersonal risk” (Wellman, 1996; Stoll, 1995). The ability to find ones peers, no matter how esoteric the topic of interest is, is causing an explosion in the number and use of virtual communities (King, 1994).  Resources of researchers interested in studying the psychology of virtual communities can be found on the web at http://rdz.stjohns.edu/~storm

Right.

Online communication challenges several firmly held expectations about  the nature of oral and written correspondence. The most widely reported finding from researchers who have studied the interpersonal aspects of online interactions is the disinhibition that occurs (Keisler, Siegel & McGuire 1984; King, 1995a; Reid, 1994; Sproull & Kiesler, 1984; Sproull & Kiesler, 1995).

Whammy.

The improbability of any local, real life repercussions for on-line social activity produces a new and poorly understood psychological phenomena; people feel free to express themselves in an unrestrained manner. “If all computer-mediated communication systems can be said to have one single unifying effect upon human behavior it is that usage tends to cause the user to become less inhibited.” (Reid, 94). (See chapter 2).  Judgments of others in this virtual social setting, made without the normal sensual clues, can consist of distorted, emotionally laden projections (King, 1995a), and can be communicated without the normal constraints imposed by the need to maintain social order (Huang & Alessi, 1996).  Research is slowly starting to delineate the psychological differences engendered by online interactivity.

Delineate. Love that word. Plus that’s what we’re doing, right? We’re learning here.

Main Entry: de·lin·eate
Pronunciation: \di-ˈli-nē-ˌāt, dē-\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): de·lin·eat·edde·lin·eat·ing
Etymology: Latin delineatus, past participle of delineare, from de- +linea line
Date: 1559

1 a : to indicate or represent by drawn or painted lines b : to mark the outline of <lights delineating the narrow streets>
2 : to describe, portray, or set forth with accuracy or in detail <delineate a character in the story> <delineate the steps to be taken by the government>

— de·lin·ea·tor \-ē-ˌā-tər\ noun

One of the first research findings to come out of the study on online behavior has to do with status.  The lack of sensual clues and relative anonymity creates a more level playing field for online social interactions.  The normal situational and visual clues that tell some one about the status and position of another are absent (Keisler et. al., 1984).  People have an enhanced opportunity to feel at ease with others.  Communication is reduced to it’s elemental state of the exchange of ideas and concepts.  Matters of age, race and even gender have much less influence over online interactions then they do face to face (f2f).  How power and status is gained or lost in open online communities is a question for future research to answer.  It has been suggested that ones status can be raised by frequent posting of short, helpful or self-disclosing messages (King, 1997a).

Which makes me consider Facebook and Twitter and WordPress, a lot.

There is a “hyperpersonal aspect” to Internet communications, a means to be more selective about how one presents ones self.  “Another component of the (hyperpersonal) model, feedback, suggests that these heightened self-presentations and idealized perceptions magnify each other to a superordinal level, as users reciprocate each other’s partial and selective presentations.” (Walther & Boyd 1997 p.8).

Hmm. This is tricky. Because in the re-reading I see that I was always being completely honest. But was he? And how do you know? And what if you don’t really pay attention to your dreams? Or what if you spend the majority of your waking hours drunk? Or stoned? What if your pineal glad is so under-developed you’re ultimately incapable of being in any sort of relationship whatsoever. Albeit online or otherwise? What then?

This magnification factor of the hyperpersonal model is a theoretical formulation that could help account for the high rates of flame wars (arguments) and love affairs that happen on the net.  There is as yet no empirical evidence supporting the observation that flame wars and love affairs occur in open, interactive virtual communities at a rate higher than what one would find in f2f groups, but there is a growing body of anecdotal reports of this and a widespread awareness of a high frequency of these extreme interpersonal Internet exchanges.

And now for some sanity:

It is the social aspect of computer assisted communication, the interpersonal exchange with others, that is so stimulating, rewarding and reinforcing that some people are finding it hard to know when to stop (see Suler, 1996; Young & Rogers, 1998) (see also http://netaddiction.com)

That link is good.

In the impersonal isolation of our large cities, where people often live separated from kin, or lonely amid the multitudes, the Net can become a surrogate social life – a vital source of interpersonal contact despite its non-physical nature.” (North, 1996).

The Internet is a social technology.  People connect to each other from vast distances, read notes posted by invisible others while remaining invisible themselves, all with very little logistic and social cost (Sproull & Faraj, 1995).

The remainder of this essay can be found here:

http://webpages.charter.net/stormking/Chapter5/textbase.html

I hadn’t meant to write this blog just now. I actually sat down this morning to write something else entirely. I was only tidying up my inbox for a few moments when I found myself organising my folders and opening Pandora’s Box.

I’m glad I fell in.

I’m glad I fell in love with this man in the first place.

I’m glad that we wrote to each other, so explicitely for so many years.

And I’m glad that a time passes he leaves a fonder taste in my mouth than my stupid ex-boyfriend, whom I learn today, has deleted some of my most work-shopped chapters of my book without my noticing.

Ying and yang. High and low. Up and down.

Baby, baby, baby…

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