Turning my gaze to the world

Me and my masterpiece... all thanks to the internet

Me and my masterpiece… all thanks to the internet

In recent months I have received some lovely gifts as a result of my blogging and, although it’s not the same as meeting in person, I do love the friendships I have made via the Snail of Happiness. I now have genuine friends all over the world – people I e-mail, people I Skype and people who I will go and visit if I am ever in their part of the world. But this doesn’t just apply to distant people… I would never have met Katy the Night Owl without this blog: she is mostly confined to bed, so although she only lives about 500m from me, we had never met. Because of a series of comments here, I now have a new friend who I do actually go and share a cuppa with.

I also have some great friends who I keep in touch with via Facebook – some I knew before, but some I met via the permaculture diploma group on Fb that I’m an active member of (I’m hoping to meet lots of them in person at this year’s permaculture convergence in September in London). I was, therefore, slightly distressed when one of these friends announced that he’s going to stop using Facebook. With his comment, he posted a link to this video, it’s called ‘Look Up’ and highlights how we cut ourselves off from real-life encounters by being glued to our mobile phones, tablets and computers. Now, I agree that it’s not good to lock yourself away with the internet and never have face-to-face encounters, like the Japanese hikikomori andΒ  dokuo,but I don’t agree that it’s all bad.

I know several people who have met their life-partner via the internet… and not just via dating sites, but through blogs and discussion groups. My Masterpiece blanket has been created because of connections via the internet, and that is a real, tangible object. I share photos with friends using Facebook and keep in touch with people who I cannot see because we live so far apart. I support small businesses that I find on-line and I’ve made friends this way too.

The route to so many interesting people.

The route to so many interesting people

What I don’t do is use electronic communication to the exclusion of face-to-face interactions and activities. Mr Snail-of-happiness and I do not take mobile devices with us when we go out to dinner – we sit and talk and laugh and look at each other, and the only other people we communicate with are in the room with us. I go into the garden and plant potatoes… I go to the local yarn shop and chat with the owner… I go on courses and meet new people… I love all that interaction.

So, as with everything, it’s about balance. It certainly isn’t healthy to lock yourself away and communicate only electronically. A virtual hug is not the same as a real hug. A touch of the hand cannot be replaced by an emoticon. I cannot wipe away your tears if I am on the other end of a phone line. I cannot clink gasses to celebrate a success via Skype. If you meet me, you see my full range of emotions; if you read my blog, you see selected highlights. But, even so, I still love writing my blog, making connections and sharing. I gain a perspective on the world that is not otherwise possible. If I watch the news, I get a very skewed view of other countries, but my friends in Tasmania, Albuquerque, Victoria, Brisbane, Cape Town, Paris, Santa Maria, Lima and elsewhere tell me of their true experiences, of what they see in the world and how they – real people – actually feel. Because of this I know that the world is full of creative, funny, caring people who give me hope for the future.

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  1. Very well said — Every word you have written rings so truly.

  2. I think the trick is to view electronic communication as an enabler rather than a lifeline. Being so very far from friends and family, I rely heavily on Skype to maintain a healthy relationship with them based on conversation face to face, gossip, news and celebration. OK, I’m still waiting for SkypeHug to come along, but it’s better than a phone call or email. I’m not a great FB fan because I find it trivialises the process of sharing news, thoughts, images and events and makes it formulaic. More importantly, I don’t like letting it all hang out like that. Blogging, as you’ve said, is different, because it builds connections and allows people to discover commonality naturally through those connections. Being unfriended in FB is to become a bit of an outcast, but if someone stops following my blog, I really don’t mind too much – I have trouble understanding why some of them are following me anyway!

    • Well said. I like Facebook for some things – in particular some of the private groups that I am a member of, but I post with care publicly.

  3. I totally agree with you about the balance of living with technology. I often cringe and get frustrated when Im spending time with family, friends or my partner and they whip out there phone mid-conversation. I do however, totally love the benefitsof having such amazing advances in technology at our fingertips and would not have chatted to such lovely people had these not have been available to me. The balance is crucial in my opinion πŸ™‚

  4. I have to agree. Without the internet I wouldn’t have met wonderful people like you and the other friends I’ve made everywhere. I may not be able to offer Hugs in the tangible sense but without the net I wouldn’t even be offering virtual ones and would be a virtual recluse here. Because of the net I’ve actually met a friend from America and proved we were friends in the flesh and not just online buddies.
    I may spend an inordinate amount of time on here but it’s proved to be a lifesaver.
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

    • One day I will get in the car and come to see you David… if only Wales had straighter roads it would be much easier!!
      xxx real virtual hugs xxx

  5. It’s very true what you say, Jan and, even though, through necessity, I do spend more of my time communicating via the internet, it is always my greatest pleasure when my friends come knocking at the door, whether for a quick visit, or for a few hours of crafting, catch-up, and cakes. But then, like anyone who enjoys talking to people from all around the world I, too, have made some wonderful friends online – especially when I discovered the one who only lives a few hundred yards away! πŸ™‚

    I truly think that we are the lucky generation – we are the ones who grew up with a much more balanced life of play, work, and social activities, but we were also right there when the internet became available to all, where we have the opportunity to meet, and become firm friends, with people from all over the world. I do think that, even though I agree somewhat with the ‘Look Up’ video (I actually caught it via Facebook a couple of days ago), I also think the majority of internet users do have the balance right and, like you, prefer to spend their free time with family and friends, doing something a lot more fun than sitting in front of a screen πŸ™‚

    • All so true. Who knows what we would all have been like if we’d grown up in front of a computer screen… I for one am glad I learnt to knit, sew, ride a bike and do all those other activities as a child.

  6. The baby carriage is evil because it takes babies out of the arms of Mothers, the telephone is the work of the devil, blah, blah, blah. Don’t let that ridiculous video get under your skin. From my perspective your blog is helping save the world and you have expanded your social group and now have a group of “pen pals” as well as many other types. Ummm… helo .. I am a real person and my relationship with you is very real.
    Oh please, Men are going to stop noticing women??? Oh please.:-D.
    I risk falling into a justifying mode but my 13 year old and his large group of friends have all grown up in front of screens and are all sporty, arty and fabulous.
    Why so ‘all or nothing?” A friend of mine did his PHD on the moral panic of the 1950’s parents and comic reading and equated it with now video games.
    ps. is a virtual hug by your partner (who is away for short time) better than a “real” hug by a real person you like but are not terribly close to? That video was soooo condescending but I am glad I saw it. I wouldn’t even bother debating it. I am too busy with my own interesting life. Love you blog. πŸ˜€

  7. I’m happy to be your connection to Lima and all things Peru (at least for 6 more months, then its back to Tasmania and who knows what new adventures…). Like anything else, social media needs to be used carefully and in moderation. Here it helps me keep in contact with life back home and allows me to maintain relationships that will be very important on my return. It also makes my world bigger, introducing me to people who inspire me, who I can collaborate with and who I can share ideas and worries with in my efforts to leave this planet in a slightly better state than I entered it in. You are one of those people and I’m glad blogging has introduced us.

    Real world friends are essential too, and I need to make sure I go out and hang out with my Peruvian friends and keep strengthening my local networks too, because they are the people who help me to adapt and integrate into this very different world I’m living in.

    As for most of the young people I know, they use social media far less than I do, and they use it to organise and coordinate amazing things, like fund-raising events and art shows and travels to some of the lesser known corners of the world. If the young people I know are representative of their generation, the future seems to be in pretty good hands. =o)

    • That’s great to hear.
      I know that I am gaining a whole new perspective on the world through the internet…and it’s a much less carbon-demanding way to do it than trying to visit everywhere. As I said in the post, what I really like is getting a normal person’s description of a place/situation/event rather than the ‘news’ from a journalist’s perspective. Your posts about Peru tell me so much that would otherwise not know.

  8. I met Stevie-boy online. He lived in the U.K. and I lived in Western Australia and we have been married now for 14 years. I think that the internet is a most invaluable tool for allowing like minded people to find each other and communicate and form valid community. There is a lot of support for people out there and people with disabilities or other reasons why they don’t want to, or are unable to deal with mainstream community have found a niche where they can share their lives with others on a safe or available level. I know how life online can take over the real world but the benefits of online communication and the ability to learn from others in the world community far outweigh the temptations to live online and it’s like anything else, just ladle your derriere off the PC chair and get out occasionally if you are worried! πŸ˜‰

    • Well said! How lovely that’s the way you met S-b… just goes to show!

      • It certainly does and what is even more strange about our meeting is that it was my very first day ever using a computer and it was the last day that Steve was going to try communicating with people online because it was all so meaningless. I get the feeling that some people are just meant to be together and the internet has given the whole world a chance to meet up. I completely understand that there are a lot of shysters out there but most people online are honest and real. You just have to remember that old adage “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t!” πŸ˜‰


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