Yo ho, yo ho, the online life for me!

“I’m on Facebook, but I’m not on Facebook – it just sucks up your time. And I’ve never even seen Twitter.” As you might guess, I was not the person who said that, but it got me thinking.

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!

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  1. Florinda – This is a great post! I was just talking about this on Twitter with a high school friend with whom I recently reconnected. She lost her job on Monday. Because of Twitter and Facebook, she has her first interview today. She knows, having gone through a similar situation last year, that the speed with which she was able to get some viable work possibilities is due to her connectivity via social networking. It is the future, and I honestly feel sorry for those who keep ignoring it, hoping that it will go away.

  2. Michelle – Clearly, I agree. This thing isn't just a fad, and it's going to matter more and more over time, I think. People need to hop on board, or risk being left behind!

    April – Back at you :-), and hope to see you again off-line soon, too!

  3. I agree with you. When I try to talk to my real life friends about Twitter or blogging, their eyes just glaze over. When I've met blogging friends in real life, there have been no awkward moments and they get excited when I talk about blogging, etc.

  4. Great post.

    I accept and respect that the older generation may not feel the same "need" to be online, although my own parents (in their late 60'es) are both online and have been for years. They do not blog, tweet or facebook, but they buy books online, do online banking, order library books etc. My in-laws who are a few years younger are both on Facebook – and they use it (my m-i-l is a politician and use facebook as a tool in her work).

    And in my experience it is not really the "older" generation who turn their back on the online life, its the middle generation (roughly those between 25 and 55). I have several friends in their 20'es, 30'es and 40'es who really have this attitude: It ("it" being everything from online shopping over facebook to blogs and tweeting, but mostly they are against social networking tools) will go away soon.

    I say: Yes, Facebook/Twitter/bloggin may the the thing right now, and it may go away, but have you thought about the FACT that something else will take over?

    And they never have. They just expect "it" to go away. And that annoys me.

    I have no problem whatsoever that some does not want to facebook/blog/tweet, but it annoys me when they imply that since they are NOT doing those things, they have a richer life because they interact much more IRL…

    The heck they do! They just think so.

  5. I have had an active love affair with technology since junior high when I got my first Walkman, followed by many Discmen and then that moved to computers. I absolutely could not live without the internet or my computer. Or my iPod, Blackberry, Kindle, Verizon FIOS, plasma televisions and Sirius Satelite Radio and Microsoft Sync in my Ford. I am a slave to technology really as is my husband. I am always amazed when I come across people near our ages (mid-30's) who don't have at least two of the above items and use them throughout their daily activities. Oh, and Best Buy is my favorite store!

  6. I actually deactivated my Facebook account today…I never used it, and I was getting a bit freaked out by the distant relatives and 6th grade acquaintances who kept popping up. There are some people I just don't want to be connected to.

  7. Kathy (Bermudaonion) – Exactly. It's great how the geeks have been able to find each other :-).

    Louise – My mother-in-law is online too; it's her preferred way to do shopping and banking, but she does forward a lot of pointless e-mail :-).

    It's interesting that you mention the "middle" generation as being sort of resistant to embracing the online life, because that's where I've noticed a lot of it there too. And I've noticed that it does seem coupled with an attitude that online connections are somehow less valid. Like you, I have to disagree with that!

    David (DadsHouse) – I actually don't use Facebook much myself – I'd rather be blogging – but I do like seeing off-line friends jumping into online life from there. On the other hand, I feel bad that some of my online friends seem to have drifted to Facebook and Twitter instead of blogging.

    Karen (PlanetBooks) – Hey, long time no see!

    I think that I see embracing technology and getting active online as related, but not exactly the same. Some of the BlackBerry addicts I know don't seem to want to do more than text.

    Jill (Softdrink) – I haven't been sought out by too many long-lost acquaintances on Facebook, which is fine with me. I've found that blogging is really my favorite form of social networking :-).

  8. Three or four years ago I would have never thought I'd have a blog, be on Twitter, etc. Now I kind of wish I started earlier. 🙂

    My family thinks it's a little goofy, not Jenn, but I don't care, I enjoy it.

    I do wonder what the next thing will be. Will the Wave take off? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

  9. Oh, I should mention Flickr, too. Through Twitter I've joined a really fun group on Flickr. They all tie together, I guess. 🙂

  10. It is fun to know people who "get it," I agree. I'm feel like I'm joining a party where those of you who are more savvy have been enjoying yourselves for a while now!

  11. Mike – I first experimented with blogging over three years ago, but it didn't take until early 2007. I've been on Twitter for over a year and a half. I'm glad to have branched out so much from e-mail and IM.

    I'm trying out Wave, actually. If I get some invites to distribute, I'll let you know first thing!

    Jeanne – I don't think I'm especially "savvy," but I'm definitely having fun!

  12. I'm always so excited with I figure out how to do something new on the computer and my kids friends think it's so cool that I twitter, blog and have Facebook. But I sure got a lot more done around the house before I discovered all of these wonderful things!