Stoll’s chapter about isolation and the Internet reminded me of a conversation that I once overheard on the subject of soap operas. One participant declared that she could not understand how some people could watch those shows day in and day out, week after week, and talk about the characters as if she personally knew them. Another person responded with a story about her aunt who was very sick and for her those stories were a comfort.
We might extend that thought to the Internet. Not all of us who sign on everyday are shut-ins, but the Internet does satisfy a wide range of needs. For example, where once people went to the mailboxes or the newspaper boxes to receive news in the morning, most people that I know get the latest, up-to-date information by signing onto the Internet. Lots of people pay bills online, renew library books, check theater times, buy stuff, chat with others who have similar interest, take classes…it is a way of life. Some times we actually get online just to have contact with others. Still others that I know, after reading the news online, get up and go find someone to discuss what they have read.
I don’t agree with the isolationist factor very much at all because there are so many opportunities for communication both for beginning and maintaining contact with others. My family (and here I am including cousins, aunts, friends and friends of friends who live many miles apart) and I keep up with each other through MySpace, IM, and email. We usually know what is going on everyday or at least every week. Since all of our lives are so busy, I think it’s pretty great that we are able to do this. Sometimes we share web sites and info that we have learned via the web. We don’t have time to sit down and write letters or, for that matter, involve ourselves in a long phone conversation everyday.
Furthermore, when I consider all that the Internet has to offer in addition to being able to maintain connections with people, I think it is a much better value than postage stamps and telephone bills. We all know that driving to see our families and friends who live in far-off exotic places some 50 miles away is a special trip these days because of gas prices. Maybe having the Internet will pacify some of those problems of not being able to travel as easily as we once did.
The Internet has changed our way of life, but I don’t know that we are going to become a culture of people who sit inside our homes with only our online friends for companionship. I think there will always be folks who want to play sports, watch sports, or involve themselves in other physical activities. Many people don’t like to read and will find other ways to occupy their time. Unless something drastic happens, I don’t think anyone is going to force us to spend time any more time online than we decide is right for us.