I had an interesting conversation, a number of months ago, with another wrestling mom, about the virtues and drawbacks of living in a digital age. She asked me if I thought that technology (blogs, twitter, facebook, etc.) encouraged community or discouraged it. This is something I have thought about quite a bit because I spend a fair amount of time online, interacting with folks all over the world and have been doing so since 1998 or earlier.
I’ve discussed my life online in my about page, so I needn’t write about it again. To sum it up, I’ve been online since 1995 and have formed connections with folks from all over the world. Some of these connections were lasting, some were not. In so-called real-life, I’ve also made connections with folks from many different backrounds and places. Few of them have lasted.
I am a different person, in some ways, online and off-line. I’m much shyer in person than I am online, although being online helped me become less awkward in social situations. Back in the late 1990’s I used to visit chat rooms and learned how to join an ongoing conversation. I was able to take that to off-line situations where, instead of standing in a corner of a room at a party waiting for someone to approach me, I was able to approach people and join in conversations without feeling too embarrassed. I also learned the art of “small talk” something that had eluded me all my life.
As much as I think that social media (including texting) can be a good thing, I also think that it can take away from real-life community. I’m as guilty of the next person in that I check my email, text messages and even twitter & facebook updates while in the presence of others. Not so much friends, as my husband & family, but I have been known to be rude to friends that way too.
Once, shortly after getting a new smart phone, I spent most of the time IMing another friend while out with my friend, Joan. I think I was mostly showing off my shiny new phone, but I was completely out of line. The other day at book group I was checking email as I waited for my ride to get her coat, but I ignored the host while doing so.
I also have missed visits from neighbors during the day while working in my attic office. I cannot hear the doorbell up there, and although I am usually working — and 20 years ago would have had to be in an office instead of at home — I should interact with people during the day — especially if they take the time to knock on my door.
I think that most people can balance their online / offline time better than I can. It is something I need to work on.
So now, I’ll sign off and spend some time with my husband. After all here we are in a motel in the Hudson River Valley and I’m blogging and he’s reading while we wait for our daughter to be ready to meet for brunch.