Carteach0 started it with his post on Mal-fits regarding how he felt when he had no internet access for an extended period of time.
Then Tam picked it up with her own views on the subject.
Now allow me (on my lunch break from packing and cat-wrangling) to expound a bit on my view of the whole “internet as a divider or uniter” subject.
My story’s not as Sci-Fi tinged as Carteach0’s, nor is it as poignant as Tam’s, but I definitely have an opinion here. What blogger doesn’t? I mean, why do we blog in the first place? To feel connected. We blog to get our message out to someone, anyone, who might understand or appreciate what we’re trying to say.
In my case, I’m just not comfortable around people. I’m finding that there may be a medical reason for that, but it doesn’t change the fact that meeting new people always makes me nervous, and I even avoid hanging out with familiar people too often…it just gives me a possible explanation of why. I’ve always been something of a ham in terms of wanting positive attention, but I prefer it in a more disconnected way (being on stage is a good example). I don’t relate to people very well. Etc., etc., etc. I could go on and on.
I started blogging in 2002 on Livejournal. I still have my original blog up there, and I honestly haven’t missed a posting day in more than a week’s time since January ’02, when you combine my blog here and the few Livejournal accounts I hold.
LJ gave me a place to just babble about what I wanted to. Talk about things I liked. Comment on other people’s entries. And all without being interrupted or having to look at rolling eyes when I was talking too much. If someone didn’t like what I had to say, they could skip it, and I still got my opportunity to “be heard”. It was totally win-win for me.
I’ve gotten Christmas cards and gifts, birthday wishes, random acts of kindness, and support from all of these “strangers” online. And the ones who’ve “been there” since the beginning (there are very few of them) have been the best means of support in some situations that I could have ever asked for. Because typing and being able to read over what I’ve written drastically reduces the number of misunderstandings that people have regarding what I’m trying to say, the folks who read my postings know me better than most of my family, and much better than any friend I’ve had IRL.
Sure, it’s weird to pour your heart out to strangers (meaning people you’ve never met in person). But when you have problems being clear in your speech, and you find a way to be able to get your point across clearly, and you have willing ears in an environment designed for that purpose, why wouldn’t you utilize it?
This is going to sound odd, but through my adventures with LJ Drama, I’ve learned more social skills than I ever learned in person, because IRL I’m always worrying about how weird I must look to the other person…how much I’m talking…oh, crap, I can’t stop stuttering…hey, they just rolled their eyes, but i’m not at a wrapping-up point in my story…am i moving my hands around too much while i’m talking…shit, i’m too loud…etc, etc. I’m so bad at small-talk that it takes up most of my energy just trying to keep up with what’s going on around me in that respect, so I don’t have the time to look around and observe what others are doing. I’ve absorbed that by watching how people interact with each other online…it sounds weird, but there it is. If you observe how people who are not trying to be assholes (aka trolls), and their commenting styles on the blogs of strangers, you quickly start to realize what’s accepted and what’s not. And unlike most real-life situations, you have references to go back to if you’re not sure about something. IRL, once a situation happens, it’s only randomly that it will come up again, in most cases.
I get along better with people in person than I did before, and by visualizing words being typed as I’m speaking, I can keep some semblance of order in my speech, at least when talking to people in a formal situation. Good luck in a familiar situation – I’m still liable to repeat myself and start blathering if I get comfortable, fair warning to ya. And good luck when I’m upset or excited – words go into blender-mode at that point, and I’m liable to not make any sense at all.
“Internet etiquette” is not a great reference guide for many people, but it’s helped me.
I’ve become dependent on the internet for information, moreso than most people. Yes, blogs and news sites and whatnot are great for current events. But what I’m looking for, in addition to that, is more instances of interaction. I enjoy getting comments to my entries, because it means that I’ve reached someone. It kind of validates me as an understandable and communicative human being.
And every time you comment, or post, or email, or do anything with/for/to me in this medium, you’re teaching me and helping me to become more informed on a different level. Maybe being forced to deal with this sort of thing IRL would have been a good thing for me…maybe not. Regardless of what could have been, what’s happened is that I’m at least somewhat successful in life because of the networking that blogging and the internet have offered me.
It’s not without its problems, but those are easier to deal with than my social awkwardness, believe me.