Monday, August 04, 2008

Question to Ponder...

Do you think that email and the internet in general have brought people closer together, or moved them further apart?
(submitted by Scott G.)

5 comments:

Terri said...

Both. I think it has made casual, day-to-day correspondence much more accessible, especially for people living far apart. Additionally, it makes communication possible between a wider array of people, many of whom have never met - like those reading this comment right now.

But I think it also creates a deception that this is a venue where we can connect in a deep, intense way that is equal to that of face-to-face interactions. For me, and it may just be a personal preference, there is no substitute for actual conversation and in-person interactions.

Will the internet fill the need I have for great conversations and life-experiences with friends, lovers, and family? No. Will it help me easily and conveniently schedule a get-together, provide driving directions, and accurate weather predictions? Yes. And for that I'm grateful.

Jake said...

Like what Terri said. I would only add that part of the deception is that text-based communication is adequate to convey meaning, which often leads to massive misunderstandings, which can, in turn, drive people further apart.

Jake said...

Er... I meant "inadequate" to convey meaning.

Scott said...

I pretty much agree with what y'all are saying. Especially that bit about tone in the written word, Jake. A-MEN. I have had so many misunderstandings due to a lack of vocal qualities in email. Ugh.

But yeah, I think it's tricky. Like, I probably would have lost touch with Pam if it weren't for this blog, and I'm very happy to have these kinds of connections around. Similarly, I've used the dreaded Facebook as a way to stay in touch with some people who I don't really have the time to stay in very close touch with, but who I'd like to keep in my life, even if in some small way. The internet is great for such things.

But on the flip side, I've seen people so obsessed with email, they ignore others in the room with them. I've seen people try to form strong friendships over the internet, and 99 times out of 100, they turn out to just not be strong enough without face-to-face physical contact. Heck, I had a very ill-fated internet relationship that seemed great in text-based messaging, then turned out to be a huge effing mess once I realized who the other person was exactly.

I find it tricky. I don't mean to be a luddite, and I love the internet for so many things, like the ones Terri mentions. And it's great for keeping casual relationships going that might otherwise evaporate. But then it's such a force for globalizing, that I fear we lose our connections to local things. It seems that nobody knows their neighbors any more, and I blame that mostly on the internet. Why ask the lady across the street for her cookie recipe when you can use epicurious?

Kurt Vonnegut has a great bit about that in "A Man Without A Country," where he talks about why he still uses a typist friend to do his manuscripts, then takes his manuscript to the store, buys the correct envelope (one at a time, in person), takes it to a physical post office, etc. In the end, he concludes that while he could have "saved time" by just doing it all electronically, what is he saving it for? Doing it the old way, he gets to meet people, interact with his neighbors, see the world... As he says at the end of the essay, "the purpose of life is to fart around."

(pardon all my tangents, please!)

So yes, conflicted response. Good for keeping in touch with people far away. Bad for creating local community. Good for casual friendships. Bad for deep ones. And so on.

Pam said...

Awesome conversation! Thanks for the question, Scott!