Who do you really know?

Have you ever spoken to someone you don’t know?
Have you ever tried starting a conversation with a person you have never met before?
Are you someone who only trusts the people you know?
And on a different but related note: do you feel you cannot be anonymous in this world anymore?appearances deceive_What if I tell you, in reality you have only ever spoken to people who you don’t know and don’t know you, because when do we ever really know anyone? Heck, do you even know yourself?

And even if that is a far too philosophical point of view, still at some point every person you now know and who knows you, was initially a stranger to you and you to them.

Being able to google someone or check out their profile on Facebook before even spending time in person definitely helps to get to know more about someone. If I would put my name here, you could google me and draw positive, negative or neutral conclusions about who I am. Or you may be googling another person with the same name and get a whole other view.

Yet interactions, whether in person or online, are still a crucial part of the getting to know someone process, and this getting to know someone never ends, because people keep changing ever so slightly. On the other hand, we can learn from people’s online profiles about things which would only shine through after knowing someone a very long time, or about things we would otherwise never even bother to ask, or even think of asking.
But still, this online information needs to be interpreted in context of how the person is like in interactions: are they straightforward? Do they have good intentions for others? Or rather the opposite? For example, if you’d read someone writing misandric views, but in person they appear very kindhearted and well-intending, then you might assume those misandric views are a cry of a brokenhearted woman hoping for a man to stand up and prove her wrong.
(At least, that’s what I would want people to assume if I’d express misogyny: not that I would say such things to prove the world my view is right, but rather that the person or people I express it to realizes it is a shout out, hoping for a good woman out there to stand up and prove me wrong in my generalisations and frustrations, not by words, but by action. Showing me with kindness and good intent.)

In contrast, if the fictional woman in the example would be really passive aggressive, manipulative in person, out for personal gain at the expense of others suffering, and generally unapologetic, then I would interpret her misandric writings very differently. In that light I would see such writings very much as an attempt to convince the world men are bad, and that the underlying message is that because she is a woman she is entitled to more rights than a man. I would simply assume she has no intention of assuming another perspective if it doesn’t serve her personally. But I’m digressing way too much.


My main points I already wanted to express in the first paragraph are:

1) no stranger is the first stranger you interact with.
2) Actually, everyone you know, you don’t really know.

That kind colleague you used to hang out with and who seems like the kindest girl in the world?She may not really care that ‘circumstances prevent her from doing her work properly’, (maybe she could easily do it) and might not care she is being an inconvenience and waste of money to the people who took her in and trusted her. She might not care as long as she gets her income and fancy job title…

That girl that ‘deserves’ a good guy?
How do you know she didn’t cheat on her first long-term boyfriend? How do you know she is good to guys who treat her good? Maybe she accommodated without qualms to the sexual desires of men she didn’t intend to have a longterm relationship with or who she didn’t require to invest time in her, yet is someone who is intent on withholding affection as a means of manipulation from someone who treats her kind and she intends to keep? How do you know she is not emotionally abusive to the people closest to her, or feeding on the kindness of her parents, colleagues, friends and boyfriend by using her charm and smile on the few moments she is seen publicly, yet deep inside she is the big narcissist she accuses others to be?
That apparently single mom?
How do you know so sure she is yet another example of how bad men are? How are you so sure that the father of those children isn’t out working a weekend job to earn money to support those children and that woman? How do you know he is not just at home fixing something in the house or taking care of something else to make the life of his family comfortable, or looking after his or her parents? How do you know that this mother never slapped her kids and the father is just another man who does not love his kids? Because you ‘know’ how ALL men are? Have you ever been one? Have you ever been all men? And because you ‘know’ women? Have you ever been all women?

And that quiet guy who supposedly did something really shitty according to a rumor?
How do you know the rumor is true? Just because he is introverted? Because he is a man? Because he is an introverted man? Or because you ‘know’ the person who started the rumor?

How about your closest friend, or your long-term spouse?
You may think you know them because at some point in the past you talked a lot about your inner worlds, you looked at each other with genuine curiosity and tried to get to know each other with open minds, trying not to make assumptions but rather really listening and observing. And you may have actually been as close to knowing that person then, as close as is possible to really ‘know’ someone. But people change. Best friends and spouses grow older, experience different things since last you ‘got to know’ them, start to see the world differently, even if they try to keep you up to date. You are changing, and your relationship changes, yet you interpret everything they tell you in your past perception of them.

And what about yourself? Do you know yourself?
How are you so convinced you know you are good and others aren’t? Because you ‘know’ yourself, and you ‘know’ others? Have you never wanted to get back at your ex, showing off how good you are doing and what (s)he is missing, just wanting to rub it in, hoping that deep inside (s)he will be at least a little hurt for losing you or doing what made you feel less than special? How do you know so sure that the shit (s)he did was with the intent to hurt you, and not because you made them feel less than special and hurt their feelings without knowing it would hurt them so much? And have you never broken, or will you never break anyone’s heart? Are you really that fucking good as you ‘know’ you are?

And who you were at 14, at 24, are at 34 or 44, yeah, that is the same person on a continuum, but those four yous are still very different people with vastly different experiences and views. That 14 year old may have thought: “once I am grown up I will…”, and the 44 year old ‘same’ person may think “If only I were in my early 20s again, I would…” Same person, but not the same person. Get it?

We all spin our own stories around the people around us, about ourselves. When people don’t know eachother, don’t know themselves, they automatically fill in the gaps. Basically, we are always filling in gaps with assumptions, even if we ‘know’ someone, even about ourselves. Because really, when do we really ‘know’ anyone?

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

(This blog post is adapted from an email I wrote to a now friend I met online)


One thought on “Who do you really know?

  1. Pingback: Anti-shaming tactics (COUNTERmanipulation 101) | braineggs

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