Saturday, November 3, 2007

In defense of online

This may come as a surprise to many in the blogosphere, but there are still a lot of people who dislike and distrust the online world. They have no desire to sit in front of a keyboard, or send text messages, or read blogs, or do more than what their work may require of them as far as a computer is concerned. Some people only use their email to send the joke or the cute puppy picture on to the people in their address book. To them, the whole idea of online social networking is that it's a waste of time, at best, and dangerous and unwholesome at worst. Many of the people I know in real life fall into this category.

I am a rather gregarious and social person. I enjoy social events and talking to people and I'm one of the people at work who shows up pretty regularly in the break room at 10 AM and 3 PM (part of the culture at our library) when I am not in the middle of something. I smile a lot and can do small talk. I can be a good listener. I'm not afraid to express an opinion. I don't have a busy social life, but I am active in volunteer work and I think I am fairly well-liked by the people who know me. In other words, I do not think I am socially backward.

However, I like interacting online. I like email. I like twitter. I like reading blogs. I even like online dating sites, although I'm not doing that these days. I've met some great people online. Sometimes I've even met them in real life.

But all of my family, and most of my close friends, are completely not interested in these things. Some of them will email me, but that's it, and even some of them prefer the phone. I am met with blank stares or a look of incomprehension or even pity if I try to explain something like twitter to them. Spending time in a chat room (such as the Library Society of the World!) is considered to be a poor substitute for "getting out there in real life and meeting people and doing things."

So I'm a little defensive about my online activities. I feel like I constantly have to justify the time I spend on the computer. I am fully cognizant of the dangers of living vicariously and never really doing anything. You never get any exercise doing that, and you get fat and pale and your eyes hurt. But, um, isn't that what happens when you watch too much tv? Or read too many books?

Yes, we need people in our lives and we need to go out and do things. But we are greatly enriched by this thing called the internet.

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