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Friday, August 5, 2011

obsession and the lonely planet

My sister would attest that I am obsessed about Celtic Thunder and its current and former members, and for what she sees of me she is fully justified in her estimation.
I don't consider myself obsessed, though. I would love it if the people I hang out with in my own town were musicians performing Celtic music and covers along the styles of the Celtic Thunder singers, or singing in a more classical style along the lines of Josh Groban and Rhydian Roberts. Indeed, to the extent that the people I know are musicians and performing stuff I like, I am happy to be a local fan. Unfortunately no one I know actually performs in the styles that dominate my CD collection. And, I am not content with just listening to complete strangers singing, if my friends aren't able or inclined to sing to my specifications. I need to feel as if I at least somewhat know the people whose voices fill in the silent gaps in my days.

All this, I think, represents part of why it is increasingly necessary for singers to have a web presence, with facebook statuses they actually write themselves, and photos, videos or whatever else might help to create a virtual image of these people for complete strangers. It is not just a matter of providing fodder for the helplessly obsessed, though all my favorite artists have plenty of these fans. In a world where our longest conversations most days are with the people who sell us our cups of coffee or take our Taco Bell orders, we need some way to reconnect with people in meaningful ways. I consider the folks at my Taco Bell to be my friends, sort of, but if they switch jobs I am unlikely to ever see them again. I don't know their names, and I am sure most of them don't know mine. Granted, Josh Groban, Rhydian Roberts, Paul Byrom, Keith Harkin, etc., do not know my name and know absolutely nothing about me, but at least I know something substantial about these people.

It is certainly a one-sided relationship, but then again some of my romances have been almost as one sided by the time they ended. I know Josh Groban's dog's name, and have seen the pictures he posted of his dog, his residence, etc. But, I am certainly not a 'Grobanite', just someone who can sing along to all the songs on his albums, at least the ones in English. I know how old Rhydian is, and what he did professionally before he got onto X-Factor, and I rather enjoy listening to him singing in Welsh, which means I watch a lot of him on youTube, including his rare video blogs. I've seen a lot of solo videos from the Celtic Thunder guys, as well- Paul, Keith, Ryan and Neil- and know all sorts of random trivia about all the guys in that group. But, I am no groupie, and never could be. All of the guys I've mentioned are quite attractive, a fact I appreciate, but I can never lose sight of the fact that to them I am a complete stranger. But all this extra knowledge about these men coalesces in my mind into some semblance of real people I could interact with. They are far more real in that sense than the images I have of many of my facebook friends, even though at some point I have actually interacted with all of my facebook friends in person.

The real question I have is to what extent such virtual, one-sided interactions are replacing real in-person interactions. Given the prevalence of blogs, twitter, facebook, texting, etc., do people still hang out and talk with friends frequently? Are those conversations we do have meaningful? Do the people we barely know, who read our blogs or follow our tweets, know more about who we really are than the folks we see face-to-face? Is virtual communication an addition to the social lives we and previous generations enjoyed, or is the virtual world replacing all or part of our real lives?

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