My relationship with R has so far been characterized by two things: 1) attempts to navigate schedules over distance and 2) him saying or doing something and then me, in the odd moments on my bike, realizing what it -could- mean and then nervously telling him several possible meanings and wanting to see which, if any, he meant by it. The answer is almost always entirely innocuous, I spent time worrying over nothing, and then he placates my new set of worries that I am too ridiculous.
These converged a few weeks ago when he decided to share his calendar with me.
Exchange, Google, and the Internet (said like Jen from the IT crowd), have made it possible for us to share calendars. When I look at my calendar, I also see the calendars of my house, my friends’ house, G, and R. When G shared his calendar with me, it was in an effort to plan a visit and an experiment with emacs. His calendar is sparse, marking his internship hours and only the most important–or necessary–of events. G, my best friend of nearly seven years, sharing these stark details of his life with me seems like something not even worth thinking about. This is not to say he isn’t worth thinking about, but our relationship, almost Bostonian in its matrimonial properties, leads me to find it natural to see “Internship hours” cover a swath of my calendar in the ever changing colors I assign it.
At work, we can view one another’s calendars, but the specifics are blocked off. We merely know, in these big empty blocks marching across the screen, that someone is “busy.” R’s calendar, in contrast, marks his regular flight schedules, his lengthy trips, and mysterious events like “blood test,” that I can only frown at and wonder. I am aware of the upcoming inspections on his new flat. This isn’t just what he tells me–the annoying search for someone who will inspect it but not try to sell him anything that I witnessed with the help of the internet–but the time it will actually occur. I know the codes of the airports he flies out of and what time his flights actually are–all automatically transposed from his time zone to mine.
This sort of hypersharing, my mind tells me, should feel intimate rather than clinical. Similar to how I feel about G’s calendar, seeing R’s lacks a direct intimacy and rather evokes a sensation of voyeurism. It’s factual. It makes things, to some extent, easier. I know when R’s in meetings, so I won’t expect answers to questions I shoot his way. I know when he’s at a conference or a meeting, so I can go out of my way to remind him how much I like him and try to soften the stress of frequent travel. These are inherently intimate acts, just as seeing his calendar overlaid on my own ought to be. I wouldn’t share my calendar with most people. No one needs to see the names of the lineup of doctors I see, the secret names I use to refer to the people in my life as I denote their birthdays with terms I never introduce them with, the lunches and coffees I now put on my calendar so no one will try and schedule me for meetings during those times, the reoccuring classes and meetings I have weekly, bi-weekly, and monthly. Not only do they not need to, I don’t want them to.
Hypersharing is becoming typical. Enabled by technology, Foursquare, Google, Twitter, and Identi.ca all allow us to share our locations by checking in wherever we are–as well as thoughts and notes. We can say who we checked in with, we can mark our micromessages so they appear on screens floating in ice cream shops. Zillow makes how much people paid for their properties web-accessible. The building I live in now was purchased in 2003 for $610,000–matters of public record, but now easily findable from my bed. A U.K. equivalent site is happy to tell me how much R paid for the aforementioned new flat (well, not quite yet. It is happy to tell me how much the last person who purchased it paid.) Dopplr is just one of many sites that people can use to share their travel plans. Warmshowers, like courch surfing for touring cyclists, has the phone numbers of my housemates displayed in their profile. The Personal Genome Project has volunteers who publicly share their “DNA sequences, medical information, and other personal information with the research community and the general public.” They trade their privacy for scientific knowledge, future promises of accessibility, and getting their genome sequenced. Sharing is becoming an increasingly de-intimized space.
Recently, two people I know became engaged and the video of the proposal made its way to facebook within days. In my mute voyeuristic awe I watched. As I always do when I see these things, I let my mind wonder how it became such that we share so intently and completely every moment of our lives, every detail, with everyone else. I struggle with my own uncertainty as I change notes in my calendar, wondering as R looks at his own if he will see them and then later connect names with my names for people and connect who they all were to me once. I wonder if he looks at the ominous markings on my own calendar, “Dr. S,” “Dr. O,” “Dr. L,” “Meeting with JB,” and asks himself which doctor is which. With similar feelings, I watch with envy at the sheer integrity at how genuine others are with so much of themselves that they share. How they put their lives up for anyone to see. I think of all the posts I’ve written that I haven’t put up because I lack the courage to give up those small parts of myself even though I think those are the ones most worth showing to others. I look at my calendar, marked with the lives of others, and think about how I ought to search for meaning in these acts of openness, how I ought to find it, how I ought to believe it’s there, but don’t.