If you’re reading my post you’re a denizen of the online world just like me. C’mon, there’s no denying it. [insert smiley face here]
We’re all here. There are those of us who are writing things online. Others are reading us. Many of us spend hours on social media connecting and reconnecting with friends. Yet others spend time here learning, informing themselves, mis-informing themselves, finding partners, finding their way, playing games, snooping on people and doing pretty much most of the functions we could perform in the good ol’ real world.
My last post on writing and online experience talked about how the stories we tell might be changing because of a changed topography of feelings and experiences due to our new encounter with the digital social world. It triggered several comments where people expressed the opinion that our relationships have become shallower and perhaps less meaningful because of our online interactions. This was rather surprising to me considering the nature of the forum we were interacting on.
tjtherien, for example, suggests that romance is shallower, “cheating is also easier and temptation is a click of the mouse away.” billgncs says that “email and instant media robs us of the chance to suffer gloriously in anticipation” and kinfauns2 is eloquent about the loss of waiting for a message from our beloved: “As Wordsworth so hopefully insisted, I hope we receive “abundant recompense” for the glorious agony of time (waiting for love letters, etc.) and all the other things we’ve lost through technology.”
It is true that the internet has posed challenges to our relationships or at least to the traditional ways in which we were used to living them. On the one hand it has opened up infinite possibilities for connections and yet on the other hand it has set us up for disappointment by frustrating our very optimism about those innumerable possibilities.
The number of people inhabiting the ‘net seems infinite. Yet, is it the fault of this online social world that we did not find a brand new world out there as we had hoped but alas the same ol’ world with the same old people–a world full of cheats and frauds and people out to get you.
For example, browsing an infinite number of dating profiles online might provide the illusion that the number of singles out there are hundreds of thousands but in reality the same number of singles exist in the real world. No matter how many there are, the number of mental matches have a possibility of remaining as disappointingly the same as the real world and while one’s reach widens one’s competition increases too because of all those others with an equal shot at the game.
It is true that anyone can concoct a story about themselves online and no one will know. Cheating and misrepresentation have new ways of expression now. We can be who we want online. But wasn’t it the same before? Didn’t we have those stories before where a young man would come to town and the heroine would fall in love with him and then it would turn out that his name was fake or that he was already betrothed to someone else. (Jane Austen?)
I know that the internet has opened up new challenges. Yet, it is also true that there is a common tendency to feel the flaws in the current age more acutely than those in ages past. For every identity-less person we encounter on the net, it is possible to find out that much more about others simply by googling them. For every shallow encounter online, it is possible to find a deeper exchange somewhere it wouldn’t have been possible to reach before.
Perhaps relationships will change their local habitation and their name but I am optimistic that they will retain their depth.