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 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.