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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Riposte 

As expected, not everyone agreed with the latest article - from the mailbag:

I can go along with RE’s condemnation of the misuse and abuse of BJ’s situation to score additional emotional points in sundry other issues. It is crass and demeaning, and I hadn’t quite consciously thought of it in that way when I’ve read some of it at JU. Or maybe I’m just too used to the emotional blackmail that comes up there sometimes, and the strange juxtaposition of events/issues that get mixed up in some messages. It was a very worthwhile point.

I do take some exception to the further editorializing that RE goes into about the lack of reality in online friendships, the undue emotional investment in those ‘unreal’ people, and the excess time and energy some focus on the net. That has been a popular theme with many, and to be sure, there are ample examples of damaging relationships on the net, but I think RE is ignoring the very real value that the net has for so many. The connectedness with the larger world, particularly for people who are restricted in some way; the lack of many superficial judgements in online relationships; the honest outpouring and sharing that is possible through this anonymous medium. We learn things we probably wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to, we feel things for others in the things they say that touch us. This is a good thing.

"Real" family and friends should and do hold a larger place in our lives than office or Internet ones, but even if it is an illusion that we get closer to each other online than we really do, it is a valuable illusion, and not one to condemn. It is extra contact and an extra sounding board, and it is not one that is easily obtained in the hustle of daily ‘real’ life. The Internet can add some spice and support and mental expansion to life, and that is exactly how Bobbie saw it. It may not have been the bigger part of her life, and she may not have been hanging on every piece of info she got from there, but it was a part of her life, and she appreciated all of the info she got back. I’m certain that that feedback now has been a comfort to her, even if it hasn’t been as great a comfort as a family member holding her hand at her bedside. Must it be one or the other? Is there not enough room in a human mind and heart to encompass the abstracts of the Internet?

Perhaps RE needs to re-examine its definition of "real", and its valuation of human contact, no matter how indirect.