I’ll preface with this before anything – this isn’t a post about any specific social network, nor a how-to guide on the best way to optimizng them (I’m still figuring that out, myself!) – instead, it takes a look at how we currently use computers as a replacement for socializing with one another. Enjoy!
I remember a time when my computer was pretty much my life, instead of just a tool to enhance my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. (Shoot – WAS it yesterday? No no, I kid!)
I got on the Internet on a regular basis somewhere around 1996. We had a 286 at home, and I was attending private school, where we had our own internal email system and we would still use encyclopedias to get most of our information for our assignments. I didn’t get my first public email address till 1998 (which I only keep today to run MSN – a tool that won’t last too much longer… for me, anyway) and don’t remember getting my own computer until a few years later around 2001/2002.
Back then, it was all about the chat. When I first got on MSN – actually no, let’s go back to ICQ (uh oh!), I remember spending endless nights connecting with people on the sites I was gaming on (which shant be named due to my eternal shame), my LiveJournal friends, people on MySpace and BlackPlanet, etc. Perhaps it was because I was a teenager at the time. Perhaps it was a social by-product of the time and the Internet was still growing, being a novelty to many people. Whatever it was, it was far different from how it is now.
Avatars. Usernames. Your identity was a completely separate identity from who you were as a person in flesh and bone. You would spend equal effort developing both your online and offline personalities, sometimes skewing far more toward the former than the latter. It was a lifestyle less affected by the weather, the time of day or the physical destination of a place you were expected to be, and more about your digital identity and the acclamations and virtual gifts that were associated with it.
But in this day and age, I’ve come to realize a simple truth about what the Internet has become and where we are now:
This isn’t 2000 anymore, people!
The digital world has come a long way – we’re now looking at a landscape whose topography is just as tangible as the one that surrounds you, in that it’s such a multi-layered and extremely connected existence that the lines once distinguishing the digital and physical worlds have become quite blurred.
But that’s no excuse to rely on the Internet to be where you spend most of your social time – that’s a crutch! I’m looking at you introverts out there; you wouldn’t know it from my social interactions, but I can go from introvert to extravert like a light switch. Sarah can totally confirm this for me if it ever came to it. I’ll cold rock a party and crack all the jokes, but after using up all that energy, I really like my quiet time. With that said, back to my point.
Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in the computer, chatting with friends and going through my daily routines that I may not pay as much attention or check in as often with my friends and family in the physical world. In point of the covenant we’re signing for our pre-marital classes, I’m signing off that I’ll make sure to shut my laptop if ever needing to engage in conversation. This will be hard for me, but I recognize that it’s necessary. There’s a large world out there, and missing out on it doesn’t seem to be an option I want to explore.
But why do I call the computer a crutch? Well, if you’re part of communities and groups online and online alone, you’re totally taking the lazy way out of interaction. Maybe you can find a group of people in your area who have the same interests as you. Maybe you can host one of their meetings? If there isn’t one, maybe you can make one!
You miss out on so much of the life experience by relying on the screen – it’s been said to me numerous times that only 7% of our communication is done through our words. With 35% being tone and 58% in body language, you’re getting less than a tenth of the full experience you should be getting from others if all you are is an avatar!
So get out there. Surprise me. Come back to me with stories of your new adventures. I’ll be sure to lend an ear, and I look forward to it 🙂
Funny story, though – despite the length of this post, I must say I’ve learned something about restraint. I was going to cover more on a conversation I had with an elderly gentleman that stemmed from the topic of my BlackBerry, but how’s about we leave that one for tomorrow? 🙂
Well congrats! You survived another post! I feel like you should get a prize! Well, there’s my contest over yonder, and I’m also trying to wrap my head around the legalities of giving away some off the stuff I just don’t need anymore. And a lot of it is either new or as-good-as-new. Yeah, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff, but you know that by now, right?
Righto, I’m signing off. Hope you all have a great day, and I’ll see you when I look at you!
Until then I remain: