A very simple article entitled Living Without The Internet on Design Observer seems to have sparked a very heated conversation in its comments about how people use the Internet and does it make them feel connected to others or not.
Personally the Internet itself as a technology does not make me feel connected to others. For me, it is more the people I interact with and the stories that are shared that make me feel connected to people on this planet. The Internet is just helping to make this interaction a little easier than previous methods of communication.
Do I “feel” disconnected from people when I’m off the Internet? No, not at all. As I’ve stated before, I actually feel more connected to the world and the billions of people on it when I’m alone in nature then when I’m online. But could this be because I don’t have very many meaningful relationships online? I mean I have various meaningful relationships offline but I barely can think of even a few online. Maybe this is why I don’t feel disconnected when I’m offline because I’m not truly connected meaningfully to people online. And I guess the next question is should I be?
Or should I taking advantage of the ability to search globally with the Web to help me find more meaningful relationships locally within the city in which I live, similar to what Marko Savic mentioned in the comments of this article.
Perhaps because I’m younger and grew up on the internet my prespective is different, but, the internet is our social landscape. I moved to Toronto for school 2 years ago, and knew nobody. Through the wonders of LiveJournal I “met” many new friends. Ironically, these people are the ones when I met in person, became best friends with, and eventually moved in with. All the people I met “in person” at “social functions” were all friends of circumstance than any true bond. We aren’t in touch any more.
Even more so, should I start using the Web in different ways than I normally think. I’ve been touting that Web 2.0 is more a change of thinking than a change of technology. Maybe I need to listen to my own words? Should I be creating different journals as different ‘spaces” to help maintain relationships with people I already know in real life and possibly even foster new relationships with people who come across them? For example, one journal could be focused towards the public with regards to my research and work. Another could be focused towards family and friends, relayings what going on in my daily life. Another could be a very private journal that I only share with a select group of people and so on. Interesting. Now that I think about this, I had actually thought of this before with my “rooms” approach in terms of structuring content. This takes it step farther though. In effect, each space / room / journal is like a different social environment with different rules of social conduct (with your journal settings effectly helping to set the environment).
In closing, I’d like to finish off this train of thought with a few more words by Marko Savic again.
Between first and second years, my internet friends (I’d met them at this point) and I all moved to our respective home towns, and one of us went to Europe. We used LiveJournal to keep up with the events of eachothers lives while we were apart for 5 months, its like we were with eachother the whole time. We actually orchestrated renting a house between Windsor, London, Kitchener (Ontario) and Scotland from a landlord who lived in New York. He gave us the place over another group after he stumbled upon my blog and decided he liked my character.
And finally, I’ve moved out on my own and purposely didn’t have the internet for the first month, so I would go explore my community. I just ended up reading a lot of books instead. I was overpowered with feelings of loneliness, very disconnected from the world. It’s a strange feeling, but just seeing someone else is online – on MSN or Skype, a LiveJournal post or flickr update, its like they’re sitting in the room with you. Perhaps its a bad metaphor. Sometimes we can’t meet in person, and the internet bridges that gap.