Where does our real life begin and end? How do you feed a lonely soul? What’s it like to feel powerless over your relationship or a virtual situation? How long can you stay sane and remain faithful to a passionless lover? Where does Facebook fit into all of this? Early this year at a writer’s meeting in Docklands I met a lovely author called Ping who had written a book about an unlikely love, a virtual love affair. There was something in her attitude I liked and I sensed a strong free spirit. We agreed to meet through the week and have lunch at a little cafe I knew in the Queen Vic building. We sat in the laneway outside the cafe and we chatted about our personal likes. I liked theatre, Ping liked martial arts. She was married with three children, lived in Singapore. I’d struggled my adult life in the arts, lived in Melbourne. During conversation I began to suspect that this was the start of a new friendship, my creative soul was reaching out to connect to other writers (at times you can feel trapped in your own creative endeavours, sometimes it good to immerse yourself into another artist’s world, if only for a moment). So I sat and sipped my coffee, ate and chatted with Ping and the conversation flowed easily. After lunch Ping suddenly pulled a novel, a cap and a card out of her bag as a gift. I was flattered. The book she gave me was titled 10726 in Two Months. It was her first novel she explained, available on Amazon. She was proud I could tell. What’s it about I asked? It’s about an unlikely love affair between two writers on Facebook, Lim Shi Yi and Mark Fallon, living on opposite sides of world and their work…two parallel love stories, both intense. A Facebook romance I thought, set in virtual and real time. As a regular Facebook users I was immediately attracted to this idea. I’d had my share of romances, more than most people but I’d never had a virtual one. I read the book the next few months on the tram to work, I sensed in the lead character of Lim Shi Yi , a longing that I related too. There was disappointment in life, hard not to have after you reach thirty-five and have been there and done that, but also in the character there was a creative and active mind…a way of escape from the hardship that life can hurl at you. It suddenly seemed to me that we have a choice today to live in the real world or to hide behind an avatar, an online persona, and live out our wildest fantasies in virtual reality. Who are you in your story Ping? Are you Lim Shi Yi?…I pondered. Who is the real me?…I thought. Am I the man in front of the monitor eating a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich, typing in bed or am I the persona beyond in virtual reality…the persona of my dreams that other people read about and see on Facebook. As a writer, director and artist you struggle to find the truth inside a character, you dig for it in yourself too, but there can be a lot of lies behind a keyboard, truth can be hard to find and people are not always in the virtual world, who they say they are in real life.
Many years ago a close friend fell in love so he said, with someone he first spotted on Facebook via a mate’s profile. (Remember how you’d cruise profiles when you first setup Facebook?) Later he saw the profile of the person he fancied on an adult dating site and plucked up courage on Facebook to connect…click…friend request sent and connected. Over several months, my friend went through the process of having a relationship with this person without ever hooking up in the real world. His virtual relationship had highs and lows but eventually came to an abrupt end when the object of my mate’s affection clicked unfriend… Goodbye Facebook lover! The virtual relationship was never ever consummated. I recall distraught coffee conversations with my mate in tears over something his virtual lover had said, in text…once they didn’t chat for a week and I thought my friend was going to blow a fuse. When I confessed over a beer that I just didn’t get his pain, I was verbally attacked and I had no other choice but to wiggle out of the conversation and change the topic. What I don’t get about the virtual love is that it appears to connect with people who should know better. My mate was smart, funny but naive when it came to an online romance and real life romance in general. Maybe even a little desperate too. That said I did have someone who use to talk dirty on the phone while I stuffed spoonfuls of icecream into my mouth on the other end, all in the safely of my lounge chair. Very erotic…hardly. But, that was a long time ago, on phone chat lines and they are so yesterday don’t you think? It’s the Internet and social media that rule today. What’s next after Facebook, and after Tinder, and so on. Where do we go from here in our quest to meet a partner?
Did you click single or married on Facebook? Have you had a life event happen today and did you let Facebook know? Have you announced the start of a new romance on Facebook? Am I living my life in the moment or do I only come to life on Facebook… in a virtual reality? I found myself asking a lot of questions as I read 10726 in Two Weeks…with so much at our finger tips to help us communicate I wondered, are we communicating or are we disconnecting? Are we being romanced with each click or being left high and dry and being given the digital finger! The lead character in Ping’s book is a writer, she can conjure up physical contact for her characters in her story easier than finding love in her real life. (Sometimes I feel the same) In the book Lim Shi Yi has to choose between family and success or chance it on virtual love. What would you choose?
The book is called 10276 in Two Months by Giork Ping Ang is available on Amazon. 10276 is the number of love messages chatted in two months between the characters, Mark Fallon, a screenwriter from England, and Lim Shi Yi is a poet and novelist from Singapore. Each day they write on Facebook and after each exchange, they die a little more. If you have ever daydreamed on the Internet or fantasized about meeting the next best thing online, this book is worth a read. Ps. Ping if you are reading this in Singapore on Facebook, we are now at the virtual stage of our friendship, see you soon in the real world.