Thursday, November 5, 2009
Lukas: The internet is responsible for the content of this social life.
What do Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Grindr and Match.com all have in common?
I've met people through each one. Grindr and Match are each responsible for a past hookup. MySpace as well, back when I had just come out. Twitter can claim at least two of my friends, one of them being our one-and-only Justin. And none of those count the number of people I talk to online but have actually never met. Facebook? I'm afraid to count how many.
This may seem weird to you. I'll admit, now that I'm actually thinking about it, it seems weird to me too. But this is how we live now: in front of our computers, electronically networked. I'm sure I have a higher number that I've met on the internet than most of you, but I'm also younger than most of you. I've never had a life without the internet, and I think as a whole as we become more comfortable with it, the number of real-world connections we make on it will only increase. After all, why waste the money and effort on a blind date if you can try to weed out any compatibility issues over a few AIM conversations?
Now, I know more than most that just because you're compatible over Facebook or AIM doesn't necessarily translate to real-world conversation - indeed, it can often make it more awkward - but usually in the end all it takes is getting used to interacting with someone in person. It also, methinks, forces you to be a better conversationalist: if you've already done all the pre-coversation work online (where did you grow up? what's your favorite food?) you have less of an interpersonal crutch to lean on (which some people may need, but I just find boring).
Obviously this is no replacement for actually meeting people, nor an excuse not to do so. Rather, I see our new-found internet social sphere as a replacement for other things we used to do, like put out personal ads in the newspaper or having to go to a club and get drunk in order to locate a casual encounter (Craigslist notwithstanding). Or maybe it's just a new sphere of interaction that isn't going to replace anything, only augment our current experience. Soon enough, we may just have two explicit social lives: offline and online. I'm not sure, but I do know the more and more, we're going to start friending people on Facebook before we meet in person. If we ever do meet at all.