Net perceptions

I had an almost argument with my Gran the other day, it’s one we’ve had before because it’s a subject on which we both have strong and opposing views.

You see, I practically live online and that worries my Gran because she honestly believes the internet is evil.

That’s right; ‘EVIL.’

She truly feels that it’s the internet that has brought about the ruin of the community and the gangs of kids walking the streets. She feels that you cannot make a true friend online, that you need to talk “mouth to mouth” as she puts it, that you have to be face to face and in each others lives in order to truly communicate and form a connection to another person.

I’ve tried to explain social networking and the things I do online to her but she won’t have it, she’s seen the relationships of 2 close friends ‘ruined by the internet’ with partners finding fresher fish on the glowing screen – my argument is that those couples were obviously unhappy and that the internet just made it easier to part ways, it wasn’t responsible for the relationships failure.

She is adamant that I’m too biased to see the evil of the net for what it truly is – if she had her way the person responsible for this wonderful technology would be shot for crimes against humanity, I on the other hand am convinced that if she would just give it a try for herself she’d see a whole world of possibilities open up for herself.

Dad chimed in to agree with me on a couple of points, for instance, I’m betting that quite a few of those kids on the street either don’t have net access at home or are not allowed to use it – personally I’d love for our government to put the internet into every household for free, at least then some of those gun toting, knife wielding kids would find something of more interest to them than standing around street corners.

But Gran thinks that would make the situation worse, everybody at home ‘tippytapping on their keyboards, nobody talking..’ She just doesn’t understand what the internet is.

The thing is, I feel that people communicate more online than they do in real life.
My take on it is that these days people are just too wary to let down their guard to somebody face to face – at home alone sat in front of a keyboard it’s very intimate, it’s just you and a computer screen, you can let out your feelings and there is no feeling of condemnation from a monitor, the person at the other end has time to frame their reply in such a way that you’re not bruised by an unintentional snort of laughter or shocked gasp.
This monitor also gives you a feeling of distance that allows you to let down your guard some, it provides enough anonymity that you can let someone in further than you would in real life because at the back of your mind you know that it’s a lot easier to ‘walk away’ from someone you haven’t physically met if it all turns sour than it is to distance yourself from someone who’s in and out of your house and who knows all of your friends and family.

When it doesn’t turn sour you can give out real life contact details, perhaps you’ll meet up, perhaps you won’t but the things you’ve shared through the imagined safety net of partial anonymity help you grow closer and forge a bond until there’s no such thing as anonymity – you know each others secrets, the fears you can’t share with anyone else and everything that’s happening in each others lives.
That’s friendship.

That’s why I love social networking, it dissolves the constraints of time, it widens the net so to speak, it removes the obstacle of distance and allows you to find people with interest and opinions in kind. It allows you to find friendship.

Yes, there are horror stories, but there are always going to be horror stories, it’s a sad fact of life, some people are just downright selfish, cruel and in some cases; evil.
Online or off it makes no difference, we just have to use common sense and trust our intuition, take our time to get to know people and accept that sometimes we make bad choices – it’s how we learn.

That’s what I’d like my Gran to accept; that a conversation online is just as valid as one face to face.

6 thoughts on “Net perceptions

  1. zenfrog

    You’ve hit on something I have often talked about with friends online. I belong to the Open University suite of conferences, which is a closed community of all those with internet access who are students of the OU.

    The forums are for courses but there are around 100 social forums, and around 1000 or so people online at any one time. As I’ve gone through different areas of study, I’ve met lots of people doing the same courses, some have disappeared and some I have stayed friends with during my 4 years with the ou, even though we’ve veered off to do different courses.

    I have forged some great friendships and part of the reason is that you get down to nitty gritty conversations pretty quickly. With f2f it takes much longer, if ever, to be in a position to divulge some pretty deep stuff about yourself, whereas online, it’s easier to ask questions, easier to talk about yourself, and easier to drop your guard. Sometimes that might not be a good thing, but in my experience it results in wonderful sharing, caring and supportive friendships of the like that I don’t have offline.

    I’d agree with your gran that some of the internet is evil, but that’s life, there’s good and bad in everything. The internet intensifies this in making some deep long lasting friendships, but also it’s easier to to have a row online. There are quite a few rows on the ou forums, and it’s easy to come back with a retort that you might not make f2f, and click send, much less easy in real life.

    In real life communities and neighbourhoods, people don’t have time to communicate properly, they probably have nothing in common apart from the area they live in, and are probably involved in communities of sports or workmates or pubs in some other locale. Real life homes and communities seem more like dormitories and the real work of forming friendships is carried on either online or away from where you live.

    Getting back to your point, I agree, the internet is responsible for making some very strong and wonderful friendships.

  2. Paulus

    I came across your blog when I saw your comment on Andrew Keen’s Blog, immediately after mine.

    I agree with what you say there. Good luck with your arguments with you gran. If she watches TV remind her that, as one of your previous commentators said, they said that TV was evil when that started. For what it’s worth, I think that evil comes from people who like to tell others what to do. And those people who listen without thinking are guilty by association.

    My favourite sound bite from the “you and yours” programme was the comment that:

    The printing press was invented in 1440. Within 70 years there was a major religious schism followed by war for 200 years. But no-one would suggest that the printing press was a force for ill.

    I am so sorry that illness is restricting your life so much and I admire your attitude in pushing ahead and making the most with what you can do. May the wind be always at your back. Often a bad event leads to a wonderful new beginning. It did for me.

    Good luck

  3. K. Restoule

    We both know that she will never change her stance, but I’m wondering. If the Internet is evil, does that make Al Gore the devil? I hope not because he seems like a good guy.

  4. Donna

    Hello fellow postcard blogger!! I’m in Texas and here we say “It’s not the gun that’s evil, its the person holding it.” Everything is about the person, not the tool. Nice site! Have a great day!

  5. Nicholas Butler

    During the Renaissance many people believed that people would stop talking and learning because everyone was learning from Books. Books were considered to be a great evil to society.

    When telephones arrived they said pretty much the same. Then Television and now the Internet.

    You have to wonder what we will say is the new Evil when it comes onto the scene because clearly the one thing is true in all of this; we never learn.

    I loved this post it was a great reflection of the conversations at podcampUK where some felt that Social networks are not really being social.

    We will be talking about this topic on twitter vox ( on operator 11 ) and whilst I appreciate your not going to be on top vocal form to drop in I really do look forward to you dropping in.


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