Facebook says I have 220 ‘friends’, and while that is likely an overestimation (depending on how you define ‘friendship’), it’s hard not to think about how that and other online mediums have changed how we relate to people.
I don’t want to get too deep in analyzing that (I’ll leave that to smarter people- Kristen has had some wonderful thoughts on it previously), but focus on a particular point that’s important to me: writing.
There’s a lot of mediums in today’s world which allow for written discourse: be it email, or some form of messaging (text or instant messenger). As someone very comfortable expressing myself in written form, there have been some positives there for me. I’ve met and gotten to know people I never would have otherwise.
In a lot of ways, email is the internet form of the handwritten letter- and a recent survey suggest that teenagers today think it’s too slow, preffering the immediacy of texting or messaging. For me, I like that it combines some immediacy with the freedom of as much space to express yourself as you need. To say nothing of the empirical advantage of the backspace button.
(There’s also a rant about how texting and IMing has butchered the English language, but again, we can save that for another time, before I continue revealing just how old I’m getting.)
Having this forum to write on is something I’ve come to relish. Friends and co-workers often ask if I still write, and it makes me smile when they do. I’ve struggled to keep it consistent, but it still happens, and I can look back and see where I’ve grown as a writer, and as a person.
What’s really interesting to me is how these mediums that involve writing have affected and defined so many of my relationships, being a shy sort (and as good a writer) as I am. Who have I met because of those methods, gotten to know, loved and hated, made laugh and cry, shared the best and worst of times with over a distance previously unassailable?
The caveats are out there. You see people at social events checking their Blackberry/iPhone, more worried about the people they don’t know than the people they’re with right THEN, and that’s something I think we need to be wary of. Do we live behind the walls of Facebook/Twitter/texting rather than reaching out? I think it happens. Communicating the moment to someone else is great- but we shouldn’t be afraid to live in the moment.
I think that speaks as to why I prefer long form communication, even with the immediacy that the internet can provide. It doesn’t take me away from the moment- it just lets me share that with others, or what I thought about a moment.
Does that make sense? I feel like it might.