I consider myself far from cutting-edge, but compared to a lot of people I know in my off-line life, I’m living in another dimension. I’m always thrilled to see one of them start using social networking, and it’s so nice when I don’t have to explain how a blog works, but it continues to surprise me how many people’s lives still don’t have much of an online component. I’m not talking about people without access; these are people who use computers daily and are never without their cellphones – they’ve got the ability to be connected. They just aren’t.
For whatever reason, they don’t get it…and I must confess that this means I don’t entirely get them. (And by extension, they probably don’t really get me either.) I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong in this, but it’s like people who don’t read; I know they exist, and I can accept the difference, but it’s a big thing that we don’t have in common. And given the way the world is moving, the lack of online commonality and community is likely to be a bigger obstacle than the reader/non-reader difference has ever been.
I realize that there are certain aspects of my personality that have made me take to the online life pretty easily, and being a reader is probably one of them. A lifelong preference for writing to people rather than talking to them on the phone (and sometimes, to be honest, in person) is surely another. I’m an introvert who’s better at responding to other people’s in-person overtures than at making them myself, and I’m not very comfortable in crowds. I prefer quieter settings and small groups. I like being able to research things on my own, and being able to compose my thoughts before I express them. These are all things that have helped make the Internet a comfortable place for me to hang out. The things I’ve learned online about myself and other people – bloggers who have become friends, people I’d never have the opportunity to cross paths with normally, and let’s not forget my husband – have made my off-line life better too. I’ve become more informed, more interested (hopefully more interesting as well!), and even a bit more outgoing.
Part of why those of us who have taken to living online enjoy meeting each other in person is that it can be such a joy – and so easy – to be with people who get it, and who get us. I know there are people in my off-line life who aren’t likely to embrace the online world, and with some of them – mostly members of the older generation – it really won’t affect our relationship one way or another. Others have come aboard; we’re not always hanging out in the same online neighborhoods, but we’re speaking a common language now, although it may be with different local dialects and idioms. I have yet to inspire anyone to start up and stick with a personal blog, but as I said, I’m glad to see them getting active on Twitter and Facebook. Still, I know that some of my off-line relationships may not develop as well as they could, because they don’t – or won’t – have that additional online connection, and I think that’s a sad thing.
Being able to search Google, type a URL into a browser, and get news, weather, and your bank balance from the Internet aren’t things that define the online life – they’re part of it, but even more, they’re life skills that enhance your offline life. There’s so much more to living online, but if you’re reading this, you probably already know that and have embraced it. I’d just love to see even more people get it, and come join us!