Being Together, Alone Together

I live about 4,100 miles from my mother. She’s in snowy Canada, I’m in (temporarily) snowy England. We talk regularly, email daily, and are “friends” on Facebook. I “see” her all the time. It’s not the same as in person, but still.

I wouldn’t notice if Twitter’s servers self-combusted, and I could live without Facebook, though it might be harder to find apartments or make contacts in [insert travel destination here], or to live vicariously through my acquaintances. (But then I might spend less time “liking” things and more time finding things I like.) If Skype irrevocably crashed, however, I would lose face-to-face contact (blurry and sometimes warped but still) with my family and closest friends, not to mention am affordable way to work across the Atlantic Ocean. More about that absurdity another time.

The Atlantic Monthly posted shots from photographer John Clang’s series Being Together. Clang, who immigrated from Singapore to New York more than a decade ago, superimposed photographs of people in their houses with photos of the relatives they Skype with projected on the walls. It brings them into view, if not in person. The story went online last September, but somehow it passed me in the slipstream of the internet.

I’m gearing up to write about communities the operate online and what lurks in the shadows of anonymity. I’ll also look at the perils of the modern, digital nomad. For a social science primer I’ll check out Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, a book that is at the top of my reading queue. Then I’ll probably Skype with someone far away. Then I’ll turn off my computer and go outside, dreary as a January day in London is.

More Reading
+ Go to The Atlantic for more images and quotes from Clang. And visit his website.

+ If you just so happen to be in Singapore, see Clang’s exhibit at the National Museum and take one of his masterclasses. The masterclasses end February 2 and the exhibit runs from January 23 to May 26, 2013.

+ Listen to an interview with Sherry Turkle on NPR’s Fresh Air.