Sunday, April 12, 2009

My roommate and I were chatting about the online experience. I was trying to get her to enjoy Twitter as much as I do, or at least understand what it's really all about. (She still doesn't.)

She's quite a wonderful, gregarious person with many friends. It seemed like it would be a natural transition for her. I think today I finally realized where our great divide is. She really doesn't get the whole "online" thing. Mind you, she's an Internet person. The bulk of her income is derived online. But it's the very things I think she's most good at IRL that baffle her online: the chatting, the social, the life.

Which mystifies me. Until she said one thing today which explained everything to me, and made me wonder how many others have this same boggle with Twitter. She said she doesn't like chat rooms and doesn't understand their function.

For me, and I consider myself to be a tech-savvy geek girl with a wide variety of friends, my online experience began in the chat rooms of AOL, back in the early 1990s. Mostly I was just trying to (much as I still am now) figure out what this is all about, where we are, and where we are going with this. Certainly the "normies" of the time accused me of spending too much time online, much as the "normies" now do too.

My response then, as now, is: You don't understand. This is where I live.

This is where I socialize, this is where I learn about things, this is (hopefully soon) where I work.

Not that I neglect my real life to do online things either. I think it's essential to have balance about it. But the way I look at it is that the online experience has replaced the bars and smoky rooms of former days. And if I have an interest in antique cars, for example, I'm quite sure there's a chat room or online group out there somewhere where I can talk to others with just such a passion. 

I thought about it after my roommate and I chatted, and most of my very closest friends today: those who've helped me through thick and thin, who've helped me move across the country, even--I met in a chat room, or online.

For me, the online experience has enriched and enlivened my life. Chat rooms and online worlds and places like Facebook and MySpace and Twitter are my constant online party. I can circulate from this tech guru to that movie director to this hot guy in the space of a few hours. Or, I can put on my "I'm looking for a job" hat and search the job forums.  It is work, it is play, it is my life, and you never know who you're going to meet here, or who is going to give you that special tidbit that helps you make it through your day.

The online experience is so deeply a part of my psyche that I cannot imagine life without it. When I was without Internet briefly in January, I palpably felt like I was missing so much of the ongoing conversation. It's become a spiritual experience, a romantic connection, a comedy club: whatever it is I'm in the mood for, whatever part of myself I need to express, there is a way to do that online. Even expressing my fantasy self in Second Life, if I like.

When I first got on AOL, I felt like I wanted to talk to the whole world. And now, with Twitter, I almost feel like I can. I have people on my Twitter stream who tweet in German and French and Spanish (languages I understand). I helps me to broaden my horizons in ways I didn't know I needed my horizons broadened.

Someone recently said that, with Twitter, they no longer need to check a newspaper. They get all the news of the day right there, from the people who most care about what they care about.

My roommate is in her early 70s. Maybe it's too late for her to ever get it. And maybe I don't get it as much as a 20-year-old. But boy, am I glad that I'm able to be part of this conversation. This is where the world is turning right now. I'm excited to see what the future holds. 

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