Econstudentlog

No more posts this year

My computer broke down yesterday evening. I lost all work I had done on the first 300 pages of The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationship (probably something like 15-20 hours, depending on how you measure it – I read 170 pages of the book yesterday, and basically I didn’t do much else besides reading the book during the day, aside from taking shortish breaks along the way), which is, painful*. I take frequent backups, but some data loss is inevitable in such a situation as this. It’s also really painful to know that I won’t have a computer available to me during the Christmas days.

The handbook had some really nice stuff on attachment theory and how those concepts relate to (mostly romantic) relationships. There seems to be a lot of evidence that attachment styles affect how people interact with each other, and that these sorts of patterns play a role in terms of how well people do in romantic relationships; Leary et al. covered that kind of stuff as well, but there was some additional detail included here. People who might be categorized as ‘securely attached’ behave ‘the way you’d like to behave’, whereas anxiously attached individuals display problematic behavioural patterns in some ways and avoidantly attached individuals display other problematic behavioural patterns in the context of interpersonal interactions. The reason I’m mentioning this is that I was thinking about this stuff after the computer broke down, because the thought occurred to me that humans may these days form attachments bonds, or at least have dynamic interaction patterns which in some respects resemble those we have with other humans, with non-humans. This is relevant in part because human attachment patterns are not completely fixed over the lifespan, and may have some domain-specificity, a point they also make in the chapter (‘people may find it easier to trust other people in some contexts than in others’, would be one way to think about this; a related point is that some people are easier to trust than others, leading to the observation that securely attached individuals have better relationships than insecurely attached individuals not only due to selection but also due to positive externalities (and the absence of negative externalities such as those related to mistrust and jealousy associated with an anxious attachment style)). Now, the dynamic interaction patterns to which I refer relate to my ‘interactions’ with things like my computer and my modem. I expect my computer and internet to help me when I feel terrible about what a shitty life I have, and I’ve come to rely on those things to help me when I’m in trouble. Over the last year I’ve repeatedly gotten the message that I can’t rely on these things, because they’re simply unreliable. I had unstable internet for months, and then my computer broke down. I used an old computer, known to be unreliable, for a short while, until it turned out to be completely unreliable. I had to get a new one, and so I did. While all this was happening the internet issues persisted, and they persisted even after I had got a new computer. The internet issue was supposedly fixed multiple times, they kept telling me they’d solved the problem, but each time it turned out that it wasn’t actually fixed and that people had been lying to me. I switched internet service provider because of these issues and of course my new computer then broke down shortly after this. I was seriously asking myself a few months ago if I should have two separate internet service providers simply to avoid getting cut off again – the utility hit associated with just being me, alone in my flat, without access to the outside world, is huge. Suicidal-thoughts huge. Now I’m asking myself if I should always have two computers, because then I’ll have an extra when the other one ‘decides’ to become unreliable (I use this word specifically because that was how I was thinking about it, which is part of what’s interesting), as they all do.

The interesting thing is that when I came up with this idea of always having two computers so that I have an extra when the other one breaks down, the first thought I had was that ‘this won’t help, something else I haven’t thought about is obviously going to go wrong and it doesn’t matter what I do to try to prevent it (‘I can’t rely on things like computers and internet at all, or at least not the people who make these things’) – I keep wanting simply to feel safe, to avoid issues like these which keep fucking up my life, and yet I repeatedly fail at achieving this. Maybe I should just stop trying.’ These thoughts are of course not very constructive, but I find them interesting. This kind of stuff really matters in terms of how we think about and interact with the world. If I’d known less about metacognition, had been less self-aware and/or hadn’t been reading the Cambridge handbook, I might not have been aware of how silly/stupid/unhelpful some of the thoughts which ‘came naturally’ to me yesterday and this morning really are.

*Theoretically it might be the case that no data is actually lost and that this is just a minor issue which is easily resolved, but the default position I take these days is that I lost everything on the harddrive I had not backed up elsewhere, that the computer will never work again, and that the people I bought the obviously worthless piece of junk from will probably refuse to follow their contractual obligations in this context. See above for reasons why I might think that way.

December 22, 2014 - Posted by | books, personal

4 Comments »

  1. Interesting read. The connection between loneliness and connection via machine is so true for many people. Without human connection we sit at our computers, laptops, iPhones, Androids and conduct pseudo friendships that make us feel part of a wider world.

    I have two close long standing friends (30 years + 15 years), but have many internet ‘friends’ across the world, but each one is special and personal.

    Glass half full or half empty person? Choosing which one you want to be makes a difference to your life.

    Great post (although the writing was a little tiny for my myopic eyes!)

    Comment by Before I forget... | December 31, 2014 | Reply

    • Thanks for your comment.

      In terms of social stuff, for many people the Internet plays a major role both in terms of initiating new social relationships (‘offline relationships’ as well; there’s some research – covered in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships which I recently read – suggesting that if people are able to do so, i.e. due to the lack of geographical constraints, they will often have a tendency to ‘move’ relationships that start out online to the offline sphere) and in terms of relationship maintenance (the Internet enables you to keep in touch with friends you already know even if it’s difficult to meet up in person with that friend for some reason). So I’m not sure the distinction between ‘real/true’ (offline) relationships and ‘pseudo’ (online) relationships is as clear-cut as your comment might suggest (I’m aware that you find the online interactions rewarding, so don’t read too much into the word ‘pseudo’ – you were the one first using that word in your comment…). Online activities may sometimes play a major role in terms of facilitating offline interactions. The research included in the book I mentioned also suggested that online interactions may not displace offline interactions, but may rather displace other activities (such as watching TV), but the research was old and I’m not sure how much I trust it; however it’s certain that ‘this stuff’ – how internet activities and social relationships/activities are related – is quite complicated.

      Comment by US | January 1, 2015 | Reply

  2. Pseudo – in that some twitter/facebook, social media ‘friends’ are not real. They are really anonymous interactions – not all but with some, and I think a lot of people like it that way. No expectations, no disappointments. Yes I agree there are many different types of social relationships which will never be clear cut.

    I get the research regarding online/offline friendships. I think that is all true. Psychology of friendship and social relationships is very complex and constantly evolving. As I say, very interesting post, got me thinking🙂

    Comment by Before I forget... | January 1, 2015 | Reply

    • Whenever I learn that one of my posts ‘got someone thinking’, I interpret that as a signal that I did something right.

      Thank you for the feedback.

      Oh, perhaps I should mention this just so that you know: In case you were wondering why your first comment took such a long time to get posted, in order to avoid spam I have a system where all comments left by someone who has never commented on this blog before get withheld for approval. I have had computer trouble, so it took a while for me to approve your comment. This time-lag between posting and publication was a one-time thing for you; all future comments you leave here will be posted immediately, as they will not require my aproval to get posted.

      Comment by US | January 1, 2015 | Reply


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