Most languages – but not English – have two different words which mean ‘to know:’ connaitre and savoir, conocer and saber, znát and vědět. The first one, in each case, is to know a person, or maybe a place or thing, but to be familiar with. The second one is to know as in a fact.
I may know that person x loves cats, chocolate, and detective novels but does that mean I know that person? Not really, especially if I only know them through facebook and wouldn’t recognize them if we met on the street.
By my calculation, there are four kinds of people among our acquaintances. Those you know in real life but not on facebook, those you know on facebook but not in real life, those you knew first in real life and then on facebook, and those you knew first on facebook and then in real life. I don’t actually have anybody in the last category, but it could happen. A few facebook friends I’ve met once or twice in real life, and one I’ve talked to on the phone, but there’s nobody I’ve actually ever sat down and had a cup of coffee with.
But, for the purpose of tonight’s blog, I want to talk about group #2. That’s an interesting group. There’s a girl I knew when she was in Prague, she was a great singer and a lot of fun at karaoke, never condescending to people like me who enjoy karaoke without actually having any musical talent. But, before facebook, and before she moved away, I had no idea she was into extreme sports (not adrenaline sports, I mean she does Iron Man competitions) and is something of a math genius. Another guy I knew as a creative and talented type, quite easy to talk to, but until facebook I had no idea how much he was into cross dressing. There was a friend from my youth, i.e. just post High School, who I thought of as a fun party type who liked music, marijuana and motorcycles. Now I know he also likes guns and Donald Trump. Part of that may be our age, but I think it’s just a side of him I didn’t know. There was the guy I knew as a rather clever poet, and had no idea he was a computer wizard. Actually, I don’t know enough about computers to know that he’s a wizard, but I know he travels around the world as a rep for his seemingly innovative computer company, giving speeches, which is impressive.
Do I know these people better than before? Not really. Haven’t seen any of them for quite a while. But I know a lot more ABOUT them, I’ve got a more complete picture of their personalities. It’s somewhere in the gray area between conocer and saber.
It isn’t exactly the same as real life, but I’m happy for it. It will give us more to talk about when we meet again.