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Love at First Byte

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Love at First Byte

For a North American, the month of February creates two main images -- one of love (Saint Valentine´s Day) and one of death (February has the hig hest suicide rate). In this article, however, I will just look at the brighter side (for some people) of February. By looking at the psychological phenomenon that I call the Recognition and its relationship with the Internet, this article will (I hope) help people avoid misRecognition which can occur due to the limits of the Internet as it appears.

What is the Recognition?

Before the showing relationship between it and the Internet, I should define the term the Recognition. The scope of a detailed explanation of this phenomenon is beyond the limits of this short article; therefore, only the main underlying points of the philosophy behind the theory will be explained. Also, sources for further inquiry are provided in the reference section at the end of the article. The Recognition is defined (by me) as an instance of wisdom (in the Zen Buddhist sense of

How does it work?

In Zen philosophy, wisdom occurs not through any conscious effort put forth by reason or the ego, but via the unconscious agent known as intuition. In western philosophy, logic and reason are employed to solve (or to try to solve) logical paradoxes and problems. The ego consciously thinks about every angle, every aspect of these problems until it comes to conclusion. The opposite is true of Zen paradoxes, called Koans or "complications" (Suzuki1 255). In the second series of his essays

1. A monk asked Tung-shan, "Who is the Buddha?" "Three chin of flax." 2. YFCn-men was once asked, "When not a thought is stirring in one´s mind, is there any error here?" "As much as Mount Sumeru." (94)
The more the ego tries to wrestle with these paradoxes using reason and logic, the farther away from wisdom and enlightenment it becomes. It is by "turning off" one´s ego that one allows intuition to step in and squeeze some meaning from these exercises.

Well, that´s interesting, but people are not Koan exercises, or are they? In Lacanian psychoanalysis, you can never truly know who you really are, or who somebody else truly is (thus, people are paradoxes to be explored). The Real of you or the other person is buried deep within the unconscious mind. In an attempt to hide this absence of certainty, the conscious mind creates images that you call "yourself" and "themselves". These images are constantly changing, but they reflect your consciousness.

Your personal image choice (called an ego-ideal) will lead you to dress a certain way, act a certain way, listen to one type of music more than another, etc. It will also determine, in part, which "other-ideal" (I don´t believe Lacan uses this term, but it fits) you like to hang out with, talk to, have romance with, etc. If you and your unconscious desires are in sync, this will help you pick the "right" people for you. However, if the opposite is true and you are suffering from a neurosis or some other psychological problem, you tend to always date or hang out with the "wrong" type of man or woman.

Supposing that your unconscious forces are allowing you to pick "other -ideals" that are good for you, the Recognition is a means of instantaneously realizing that this person fits this ideal and is worthy of romantic pursuit. This occurs through the reading of body language and style. When we first meet somebody, our unconscious mind, via intuition, reads the way this person stands, speaks, dresses, smiles (or doesn´t smile), etc. In other words, it reads the ego-ideal created by that person.

In Lacanian terms, this fulfillment never truly occurs; however, as a non-existentialist, I believe that it can happen and that one can truly know the core or kernel of the other person´s soul. Zen Buddhism helps to bridge this existential gap.

For example, ego-ideals are constructions that have conscious components. A good actor or "con artist" can fake style and consciously control the usually more unconscious aspects of body language. Intuition can cut through this by not looking at the ego-ideal, but directly at the other person´s soul (their unconscious mind). Thus, it can give a true representation of that other person.

How does the Internet create problems with the Recognition?

Okay, now that you are thoroughly confused, let´s examine the relationship between the Internet and the Recognition. The Recognition usually relies on the reading of non-verbal communication as the means to glimpse the other person´s soul. Unfortunately, at this time, the communication on the Internet is limited to mostly verbal communication (in some written form). Many aspects of non-verbal communication are hard or impossible to incorporate into written language. For example, tone.

Without the aid of true body language, the intuition has little data to put into the unconscious processes, or, worse yet, it has incorrect data. True, there are unconscious aspects to writing; however, writing involves the conscious mind more than the unconscious (IMHO). Also, most people today are more used to intuitively reading the unconscious aspects of body language than written language.

Thus, this lack of intuitive wisdom can lead to all sorts of romantic problems. For instance, a person could consciously pretend to be somebody that they are not. With a crippled intuition, you are not fully able to see through the disguise and could be tricked into liking some creep. Even if the person is trying to honestly portray themselves (or at least their ego-ideal of themselves), intuition can backfire and say, "This person is really neat!" Instead, it should have said, "This person sounds neat!"

Been there; done that.

This, however, is nothing new. Those of you who have gone on blind dates or have met people through personal ads in the newspaper should notice the similarities between the problems with the Internet and these other media for meeting people. Nothing beats a face-to-face encounter.

So if you find yourself falling for somebody you´ve only meet in a chat-room or felt "love at first byte" after reading an interesting e-mail message, step back and remember that the Internet is not the proper medium for intuition and make sure you meet the person before falling madly in love with them. Also, don´t deny the unconscious mind´s assessment of the person when you finally meet.

Použité zdroje:

LACAN, Jacques. C9crits : a Selection. Alan Sheridan, tr. New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.

LACAN, Jacques. The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. Alan Sheridan, tr. Jacques-Alain Miller, ed. New York : W.W. Norton & C ompany, 1981.

SUZUKI, D. T. Essays in Zen Buddhism (First Series). London : Rid er and Company, 1961.

SUZUKI, D. T. Essays in Zen Buddhism (Second Series). London : Ri der and Company, 1961.

Klíčová slova: 
Zatím žádné hodnocení
FULK, Ted S.. Love at First Byte. Ikaros [online]. 1998, ročník 2, číslo 2 [cit. 2023-01-30]. urn:nbn:cz:ik-10155. ISSN 1212-5075. Dostupné z:

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