Home > Real Life, The Internet > Carrier pigeons are out of the question

Carrier pigeons are out of the question

It came to me a little while ago how profoundly the Internet has impacted my social life. Not only in the obvious ways, but also in some very positive directions.

Take Jon, a close associate of mine. When I first met him, he was a faceless in-game handle with whom I played World of Warcraft. He had been introduced to me by my then-high-school-classmate Woody, who had been middle school classmates with this new guy. If I remember correctly, the first words I ever exchanged with him were concerning my feeling of superiority from being in the beta test of WoW. He informed me where I could take that beta and stick it.

I’ve also heard possibly apocryphal reports that during the weeks — perhaps months? — between this meeting and our first face-to-face, he came to envision me as a very young Richard Nixon, with pubescent proto-jowls. I mostly just came to imagine him as a huge jerk. (As it happens, I don’t look anything like Nixon, but he’s certainly still a huge jerk. It’s a very caustic relationship. In a good way.)

Woody was a bit of a different story: although in later times we would attend the same high school and be sorted into the same homeroom, the tale of the two of us began in the House of God. Our mothers attended the same church, and in a meeting remembered by none, we were fast friends.

The interesting part comes that the three of us each attend different institutes of higher learning. And yet I have daily vocal discussions with each — or both — of them. This is through Ventrilo, a client-server modeled Voice Over IP program, where each of us spends most of our time on the computer idling.

A generation ago, the story would have been entirely different. The options would have boiled down to letters and telephone; the former is too slow to be comparable and the latter too expensive. I am also reminded of my father’s father teaching his children to be ham radio operators in order to save on long distance calls home when they moved away, which would theoretically work for the real-time discussions, but has significant other problems.

Even taking this discussion to its logical conclusion, I have a number of associates who I’ve only ever met in an electronic medium. Take, for example, Wes, the proprietor of the Lyon’s Den, whose story I’ve told before. This is a man who lives two timezones away, but is enough of a kindred geek to myself that somehow we keep in touch. (Perhaps ironically, he was born right here in North Carolina but is now many miles away for reasons I’m not entirely sure of.)

Of course, this conversation could hardly be complete without throwing a bone to Facebook, the J.P. Morgan of the internet and sociality. The funny thing is that, despite early exclusivity-driven enthusiasm for the site — not everyone can do it so those who can must be cool — I have no time for it these days. Its overbearing invasiveness causes it to be nothing but troublesome to me with its privacy-betraying applets and reality-shaping functionality.

I’d rather use the ‘net to keep in touch with people I actually know instead of attempting to forge relationships in a purely digital medium. I mean, it works sometimes, but in a vastly disproportionate majority of cases, it mostly just leads me to think the person I’m talking to is a huge jerk.

Categories: Real Life, The Internet
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