Demystification Guru

Just because we don't understand something, doesn't mean it isn't understandable.

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Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

on connecting

I have read opinions that people are isolating themselves with computers, that they stay at home and look at the world through their computers instead of getting out and seeing real people. I think this opinion mixes up cause and effect. I think people have become more isolated than they used to be, even in large cities, but I think this happened before personal computers and easy access to the internet. Even in 1995 when I was studying abroad and some of us were using laptops, the internet was just getting to be an interesting place and email wasn’t even a big thing. It really wasn’t until shortly before 2000 that “virtual communities” started showing up on the internet and people have been isolated long before that.

I think people became isolated because it has become “not politically correct” to interfere in other people’s business. In small towns, everybody knew everybody else’s comings and goings and not only was this accepted and considered to be the norm, it was seen as part of the fabric of society. In large cities, there were microcosms, neighbourhoods where people created communities that were just a block long. Gradually and probably starting in the 1960s with the rise of the cult of the individual (the “me generation”), it became less and less acceptable to be a nosy neighbour and to inquire into the health and circumstances of the people around you, even including family members.

Now however, I think that people are reaching out online and creating virtual communities to replace that which was lost. People have a biological or primitive need for connectiveness and community. I do NOT mean that we should live in communes or that socialism should be imposed on us politically. I still believe that the individual is the working unit of society. But individuals need to be connected to other individuals on their own terms, whether that is through a large family or a network of volunteers or at work or just playing chess in the park (which also doesn’t happen much any more).

For the last five or at most ten years, people have been creating communities through their computers. There were bulletin board services, email groups, chat rooms. Now there are large communities like “43 Things” which boasts over 90,000 members. Even in this large group, small groups form when people with similar goals start connecting with each other. So, while I think that virtual communities are a good thing because they are reconnecting people to care about each other (even total strangers who never meet), I still think that people need to get out and connect in person, as they did before the 60s. I just think that computers have encouraged this to start up again, not that they were the cause of the isolation in the first place.

2 Comments:

Blogger bikerider said...

Good assessment. They say that the virtual world is isolating people but I think people go to their computers because they're ALREADY isolated and they NEED to reach out and talk with someone and the computer fits the bill. Why they're isolated may have to do with what you said about the loss of small-town USA (and Canada) as well as all sorts of other reason. But one thing is certain, community is important. And so is contact. I agree people should get out and actually talk face to face with other people. They ought to join a group for a cause they feel strongly for. Then they'd have community and a purpose.

1:25 PM, October 12, 2005  
Blogger JuliaR said...

Thanks bikerider! Of course, we all know what MY volunteer work is ... three new photos today alone at http://puppywalking.blogspot.com/

1:31 PM, October 12, 2005  

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