Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Internet, much like Soylent Green, is people.

Carteach0 has a post up about the connectivity of the internet prompted by his connection going dead recently:
How much of my present life is defined by my friends (and more) on the internet?
It was a very long, and mostly sleepless night. Rest would not come, nor peace.
There are folks I speak to that have become very dear to me, and I was cut off.
...and it's true. For all the YouTube flash and Amazon cash, the internet is people. It's Morse's and Bell's and Marconi's dreams of connectedness come true. It's grown from the Cold War-era experimenting of university geeks into maybe the most amazing project humanity has undertaken and every day the line between "cyberspace" and "the real world" blurs more and more.

Some eight years ago, while I was still in Atlanta, I had just started posting on a couple of internet bulletin boards, GlockTalk and TheFiringLine. I had an horrific motorcycle accident, and not only were the printed Get Well wishes from forum members a comfort, but while I was recovering and still wheelchair-bound, a guy from the boards who lived in Knoxville drove down to visit on weekends. He and my Ex and I spent those weekends playing Diablo II and chatting, and when I lost my job in the aftermath, the guy from Knoxville offered me the extra bedroom in his apartment ("Not a problem. My rent is the same whether someone's sleeping in that bedroom or not,") and a hand in looking for work here in K-town, so I loaded up my car and moved north.

One of those boards, TheFiringLine, was run by a guy named Rich, now better known as the publisher of SWAT Magazine. Rich had retired early, thanks to his amazing executive skills. Executive skills, of course, number among them the ability to Pick The Right People, and a lot of the people Rich picked to be staff on his board are probably very familiar now, even to people who have never logged onto a gun BBS in their life: Matt, Lawdog, JShirley, Don Gwinn, JPG, Oleg, the aforementioned guy from Knoxville, Kathy, and others. In the intervening years I have managed to meet many of those fine folks in real life and am proud to number them among my friends.

A few years ago, I discovered blogs and decided to try my hand at this blogging thing. Through the medium I've had the privilege of meeting many of the good people from those circles face to face: Les Jones, Say Uncle, Instapundit and Dr. Helen, Michael Silence, Kirk, Countertop, TD, Cowboy Blob. A bunch more have become friends through email. Most recently I trekked northwards to meet Roberta X and be given a gracious guided tour of Indianapolis, a tour I never would have gotten without the magic of this wonderful series of tubes called the internet.

At this very moment, somewhere some pasty-faced academic is sweating out his dissertation on the de-humanizing impact of the 'web. I think he's barking up the wrong tree. How can it be de-humanizing when it's made of people?

It was late on a recent Saturday night, I was in a poopy mood, and I had just updated my blog and toddled off to bed. As my head hit the pillow, the phone rang. On the other end were traffic noises, the muted drone of a cop radio, and a Texas drawl: "Leonard Cohen, Tam? What's wrong?"

Don't tell me it's de-humanizing.

What a wondrous digital world that has such people in it.

30 comments:

Roberta X said...

....So that's why the phone was busy....

In re teh.net, what you said, squared!

Hey, Indy's a real big place. Bigish, anyway. Come back an' see more of it? Pleeeeeeze?

Jeffro said...

Yes, the internet is people. I've managed to collect some serious friendships through my postings on some boards and my little blog.

Your post is particularly poignant and relevant to me because I just got home from quadruple bypass surgery. I cannot express how important and meaningful the outpouring of support in comments on my little blog, emails and concern in the forum I visit has meant to me.

The traditional cards and phone calls have helped immeasurably as well, but the internet has made another dimension available.

Thank you, Tam, for putting into words something I had been feeling in the back of my mind lately.

Who is..... Carteach0? said...

You got that right. The world within the net has taken some strange twists..

I have been 'on-line' since before there was a 'net'. A Prodigy pup since it began. In that time, there is no doubt at all it has changed my life. In fact, I am certain the difference is night vs day.

Now... I have more 'net' friends than I do locals. Real, breathing, human people that I am close friends with. It just happens we have never actually seen each other.

As you said.... I had my nose rubbed in that the other night.
Not a bad thing, not good either. Extremely thought provoking, to the point of a nights lost sleep.

I have become so used to reading blogs and sites, and speaking via wire with friends, that NOT having them there is wrenching.

Tammy, I feel like I know you a bit, and Roberta, and sweet Scully, and Squeeky, and....
and...... All the people 'out there' have become part of my world.

It's amazing, and I wouldn't trade it for a large stack 'o cash.

On the other hand, just like any human connection, it leaves the way for heart break, passion, love, pain, and all the other things that make us human.

It's too easy to forget that.

chris horton said...

So... did ya get my e-mail?

Breda said...

Yes.

& thank you for being part of my digital world.

JD said...

That is so true, I read a handful of blogs almost every day and feel I know the writers even though I know they don't know me. It is to the point you feel like you missed something when you haven't read the blog in a day or so. I have found I even get a bit worried when there are no posts for a while and I know the writer is a cop or a fireman/EMT, or I hear about something happening like a storm in an area I know these folks live. . . and I have never met the person in real life. . . strange how the world is getting so small. . . but it is a good thing I think.

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

A few weeks ago, I went to my cousin's wedding. She married a guy who she had first met by an online dating service (J-Date, or something).

I have some very good friends that I first met online. And I know of a lot of people who were better able to deal with medical issues in their families thanks to both information and online support groups.

The Internet has been good for a lot more than just facilitating the online games.

Matt G said...

I was on my coffee break, dammit! ;)

It just happened to take a little longer that night.

(So I skipped lunch on Sunday.)

Yer much loved, Tam.

TD said...

Wait, you check your email?!? :-)

Should you ever find yourself in Detroit, you know where to find extra ammo and suppressive fire.

Ambulance Driver said...

In my short time in the blogosphere, I've come to know some extremely talented and wonderful people I wouldn't have known otherwise.

There's a long list of "people I'd like to meet."

That list is not populated by celebrities or sports figures, but by the simple people I've come to converse with on the internet - people I already "know" in some fashion, people I consider friends, even though we've never met - people like you, Marko, LawDog, John Shirley and the like.

Yeah, the internet brings people together. Hell, I even got a fiancee out of the deal. ;)

LabRat said...

I met my husband in an IRC chatroom. Most of the truly good friends I've made over the years, I've made under similar circumstances.

The internet is a godsend to introverts; it lets us meet people with a bare minimum of the social trappings that usually make us want to claw our eyeballs out.

Rabbit said...

You're completely correct. I'm sure I know more people online over the last 20 years (well, maybe 30, since I was exposed to ARPAnet) than I interact with as friends over the course of a year's time. Even with working in a big corporation where we're 'one big happy'.

Oh, and if you like Matt's voice, mine is more like a Southron Barry White, seasoned with 12 year old bourbon. I'm not as tall as Matt, but I'm a damn sight cuter.

Regards,
Rabbit.

phlegmfatale said...

Everything you said. I can be a finite number of things based on the limits of the imaginations of the people I happen to meet in life--remarkably (disappointingly) dim odds for being understood in this existence - I am physiognomy, a body, clothes, possessions. In sharp contrast, I feel a profound kinship with all the folks on my blogroll, and I'd bank way more on that than just about any face-to-face contact I have on a day-to-day basis. I defy anyone to show me a stronger sense of community. I've never seen its equal. Indeed, this is the realization of something beyond the wildest hopes of the greatest communications visionaries.

And I think you are among the finest and best. You're who I want to be when I grow up, Tam, even if I am vertically challenged and a couple years older than you.

phlegmfatale said...

Oh, and I feel I need to give a big shout-out to Westmalle Trippel trappist ale. Phlegmmy's on a tear tonight. Lock up the Fluevogs.

Anonymous said...

As a fat, old, white haired man I've learned a few things I never really wanted to know, so I'm not trying to sound like the Prince of Darkness when I speculate that friends from the internet are no different than friends in our daily face-to-face world.......

it's still going to take seven years of experience to find out if they're real or imaginary.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

DirtCrashr said...

I've met more friends and ridden with them from rec.motorcycles.dirt and between that actual hard work (and fun) and the gunbloggers, cemented more knowledgeable relationships based on real things than I could have imagined - left alone, mu journey as a wandering clueless Liberal would have remained unchanged.

Ben said...

Well put, Tam. I'm afraid it's late and my capacity to write anything particularly witty has fled for the evening. Long damn day. Not the most fun day either.

But as with most nights, I stopped by to check in on you and see what was going on in your world. That in itself speaks to your points I think. More eloquently than I can this evening anyway.

comatus said...

And when you talk to actual persons, they almost never ask if you want them to display their non-secure items, yes or no. That's got to be a real plus.

I've gotten to where I mentally type in "xsgej" before I click on 'send' in normal conversation. The Millenial equivalent of ending each sentence with "over."

Jeff said...

Dang Tam,

If I'd known you were in town, I would have driven around aimlessly hoping to run into you and Roberta. I don't think I've ever met anyone as freakishly tall as you are. :) I know I'm never going to get down to K'ville.

Hope you enjoyed your visit to our little burg.

Since you were at IMA, did you head west over to Don's "I just love to sell guns" Guns?

JPG said...

Frank James wrote, “it's still going to take seven years of experience to find out if they're real or imaginary.” Well, that's probably pretty true, though maybe seven years might be a bit long. I started getting acquainted with some of my I'net pals in 1999. Some of them, it took a few years to actually meet face to face, and some I haven't seen yet.

It's surprising how many of 'em would qualify as friends. In a particular old-time oath of fellowship, the attestor commits to aid another, “though it be at night and barefoot.” There are indeed some 'net pals to whom I'd extend assistance on short notice and at major inconvenience. I might try to arrange for lawyers, guns,and money, or I might well climb into the truck and go myownself. Conversely, I feel sure that some help would come my way if truly needed.

Yup, connectivity undreamed of a few short years ago.

JPG

Roberta X said...

Jeff, if Tam returns to see the rest of the museum, I'll wear 3" heels and you'll find it easier to spot us, 'kay? 'Cos there are only like, a kazillion other women our height in town!

Roberta X said...

I find the degree of connectedness withing the blogiverse happily stunning; as usual, it took Tam to point it out. Like Phlegmmy said, Tam's who I want to be when I grow up, (which I've been saying since we crossed paths at TFL).

Jay G said...

Tam,

Truer words were never spoken. Err, typed.

And if you ever find yourself heading north to visit Marko, you're heading straight through my neck of the woods.

Give a yell and I'll see if I can't get some time in at the local Class III range, just so you can shoot some machine guns in Ted Kennedy's back yard.

That's GOT to be worth some gunnie points right there... ;)

Jeff said...

Roberta -

Hope you know I was just kidding. It was kind of a mental callback (for me anyway) to what Tam wrote about the lady who came into the store and asked how tall she was before she realized she was on a raised platform.

Jeff from Indy

Babs said...

God bless you - your experience with the net has obviously been a damned sight better than mine.

My experience with the internet has been mixed. It's had its positive moments and positive aspects, but I have seen and experienced the dehumanizing aspect of the little screen and have been exposed to the dregs of society on a frighteningly large scale (leading me to believe that 99.9% of society were dregs if the people who contacted me were any indication; thus sending me into retreat). I have been quoted as saying that, while as a single person I enjoy the informational and social aspects for the most part, I deeply believe that the internet is the worst thing that ever happened to marriage based on the sheer numbers of self-proclaimed "Happily Married" men who were cruising the net hitting on me and every other thing in a skirt and the divorce statistics related to internet addiction and cyber affairs. The anonymity of the net spawns a falsely premature feeling of intimacy with strangers. Then there are those spam emails and popups that contribute to kids being forced to grow up too fast.

Not that it's been all bad. Online, I have made a couple of acquaintances and I have met AD. The Perspectives series apparently touches people and that's fulfilling. But for some reason I seem to be a magnet for the whackos no matter where I am online. I can't speak a single word without being challenged harshly on it by somebody I don't know and frankly, that's tiring. If I want to deal with nasty attitudes, I can just go to work.

Over the years, the vast majority of my experience has been along the lines of having been trashed and insulted by total strangers leaving me to believe that the world as a whole is insane because (a)people seemed to believe that the presence of a face photo was a personal invitation just for them, (b)my vocabulary made me "stupid" because I "use big words," and (c)I have been denigrated because I refuse to post intimate photos of myself or turn on a webcam and flash. Repeatedly and in high volume. I have been ripped apart because I have a mind of my own and have the gall to have some self-respect. I have ceased blogging because people (strangers to me, even if they were bloggers themselves)began to feel that they had the right to step into my life beyond the blog and tell me how to live.

Of course, I don't participate in many discussion boards due to the interference of my 80-hr-a-week work schedule in my ability to have an actual life, but the one I do participate in is so large (a nursing one) that there are no friendships being made there.

So, aside from having met my soulmate, which still amazes me, the rest of my internet experience leaves a lot to be desired. Yes, the internet is made up of people. But unfortunately most of the people out there are dehumanized, damaged, destroyed...and using the anonymity of the little box with the screen to re-create themselves through some alterego, creating a fantasy self and buying into the "shopping cart mentality" that the internet seems to encourage. Now we have to use the 'net like you would a thrift shop: sorting through all the junk (as above) in hopes of finding something nice in there somewhere (actual intelligent conversation with someone who actually seems human). And instead of getting out and meeting their neighbors and taking part in life around them, they're sitting inside attached to the little box and before they know it, the day is gone. Then the month. Then the year. Then their lives.

Sorry I got longwinded there...

Tam said...

I do understand.

I'll say this: If I could change one thing, I'd go back to when I first signed on to Glock Talk and register as "GlockFan1" instead of "Tamara". It would have made things easier because, as they say. "on the 'net, nobody knows you're a girl."

As it is, I just decided that the web was for making friends and for hobby stuff. I agree that the 'net dating scene is full o' whackjobs with high stalker potential. So I just decided early on to avoid it entirely. Hence there are probably people who have been reading me for years that don't know if I'm single, married, dating, looking, or what, because that is one part of my life that I didn't feel I needed to share with strangers. As a policy, it's resulted in a lot of ignored blog comments and email, but it's kept the stalkerriffic away, too.

Tam said...

"Hence there are probably people who have been reading me for years that don't know if I'm..."

I should amend that to say "There are probably people who've been reading me on the gun boards for years..." I'm obviously a little more open about my personal life on my blog.

Babs said...

Yep, though it doesn't matter if you're online for dating or not - still viewed as a target and if you're not looking or not interested, then comes the really crazy stuff because people just can't believe that, or they think it's their mission in life to push you to change your mind. Ignore lists have limits, unfortunately. Use the words, "That's not appropriate to share with a stranger" (as I have done) and they flip out. All it takes is a Yahoo profile with the word "female" on it and someone out there will divine the idea that you are for them and they will stalk you. I've had one real-life stalker in my life and I have two cyber-stalkers that I know of.

On the other hand, it's been an eye-opener and has taught me a lot about people and has taught me to be a pretty good investigator as a result of all that I've seen online.

Anonymous said...

'babs' makes a solid and strong argument for the negatives associated with the 'net. As someone who has written and published in the dead-tree media for more than 20 years, I've become accustomed to the idea that what I write I Own.

Therefore I use my real name in all just about all my correspondence whether on the net, published in the dead tree media or otherwise. I do this because I've discovered I have a Real Problem with the phenomenon I call the "Internet Cowards". They use their anonymity as a weapon to malign, harass, accuse and generally call in question everything you've written or stated, up to and including the legitimacy of your birth.

I realize that for some people, both male and female, the problem of a stalker (cyber or otherwise)is quite real and no joke, but I'm too old, too ugly and just plain too damn mean to really care.

As for the length of time it takes to discover if a friend is real or imaginary, seven years may be a bit long, or a bit short. I found out after I buried my daughter that I had very few fews, but a whole bunch of acquaintances. As someone who has always been an 'only' child I found two men who are and will always remain my Brothers.

It takes time and hard trials to find out who your friends really are, whether its the internet or the face-to-face world.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Roberta X said...

Jeff: and I was kiddin' you back!

Having read what Babs has to say, it reminds me a bit too much of some of the BBSes of my youth and gives me pause in re this whole blogiverse thing. My life's been scary enough already. I really only wanna hear that loud sound at the range if I can possibly manage it.

A lot to think about.