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 and  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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