Webcams and the social fabric
Today I received a webcam that I'm going to use for my guided spiritual journal on beliefnet.
It's so much fun! We set it up, logged onto msn messenger on the computer downstairs with one username and on the computer upstairs with a different username and started sending video and audio. Amazing how something so complex can be so easy to use!
A couple weekends ago, at Context, I heard about something I'd never heard of before which was described as solo dating -- which is that two internet friends would go to the same movie the same evening and then chat online about their reactions and so on. It's not got the intimacy of going to see a movie in the same movie house, but if you and your best friends live hundreds or thousands of miles apart it's a close second. Certainly better than going to see the movie all by yourself and having no one to talk to about it.
Still, one wonders what impact the internet is having on our social relations. Internet buddies have replaced the next door neighbor as the chat buddy of choice. We don't lean over the back fence anymore, we send over the worldwideweb.
This seems to me to at once bring us closer and keep us further apart. Web conversations tend to be more easily open and frank than in the flesh ones. But it is a fake frankness? When we meet face to face does the easy openness continue or is there an awkwardness that we can never quite overcome. Does the easy openness of the internet feel the same as heart to heart conversations with a buddy in the flesh. And what of the importance of real touch. We may send cyber hugs, but they certainly can't replace physical ones.
I'm enjoying my webcame, and looking forward to being able to do web conferencing, but I hope I never find myself in the situation where all my buddies are web buddies, and I have no one with whom to share a real hug.