When I was talking with friends and family (mainly) about my extreme-long-distance-relationship (xLDR), they were telling me how during ‘their’ time it would not have been possible because calling was to expansive and their were no other means to stay in contact. One of my favorite ‘politicians’ once said to the audience I was in: ‘at that time we only had telegraphs. When you wanted to organize your revolutionary forces it took weeks until the telegraph arrived and at that time the government already knew what we were planning’.
There are three sides to it: the political and private (as just mentioned) and of course the economic one (regards to the New Economy). In the New Economy, the means mentioned above are crucial to the whole and thus again contains an enabling function. What does these mean?
– Embedded and Internet Relay Chats
– Bulletin Boards and Fora
– Instant Messengers
– Video- and Voice calling
– Social Networking Sites
– Emails and Newsgroups
All these tools enable us to communicate, share information and even voices and videos with others, no matter where they are. That can be loved ones, business partners, friends or just acquaintances who share the same interest in whatsoever. Of course it does not substitute for face-to-face communication. But that is also not the goal. It is an enabler and facilitator. Today, I would like to focus on the private area. Can you, by accident or involuntarily, be a loner in the digital age? There are two types of loners, those who decide on themselves to have not one keeping them company and those who are not accepted whatsoever and end up being alone. Alone meaning having no one to share information, feelings etc. with.
For a lot of reasons someone can stand out of the society without a circle of friends. That might be someone who is still in school or someone who is already in his best years and lost all his connections and friendships. There might be a reason why that happened to him or her but let us assume this virtual person is not anti-social. Can he or she become something else than a loner if he (okay, from no one I am going to be gender-insensitive) chooses not to be? I say yes. Why is that? Precisely because of all these means of virtual social interaction and networking that we have nowadays. Dating websites, social networking websites, interest groups organized in fora etc. – these are all places he can easily penetrate while it might be much more difficult to integrate himself into a sports club or whatsoever in real-life. Especially interest groups tend to setup real-life meetings where all the people in the forum or chat meet, drink, talk and do whatever they decide to do. Belonging to a special interests group is already an entry-card. If you do not behave like a total jerk latest after the first real-life meeting you will get accepted (most likely). These special interest groups can be anything from fish lovers over role players to extremists. So as long as you are interested in something and decide not to be alone anymore you can do so. Being online (in ealier times more then now) meant sharing kind of a culture with those who are also online. Now, you have to go into these kind of groups to experience the same. You share something (the special interest) and therefore you are a community already. The difference to reality is that a lot of these special interested groups are either dispersed (cause it is a ‘special’ interest) or they do not hold dinner parties (computer nerds?). Therefore, virtual reality makes it easier to penetrate and become member of such a community. Online dating is similar. For some reason all people who have an online account created one. That reason is a shared value already. That can for example be lack of time or just the attitude to hate going to a bar and waiting getting hit on – or hitting on random people in a bar. Thus, them dating online is a shared value and therefore constitutes part of a common culture already. I could go on with that list… but the main point is that the Internet (its online communities) constitute an easy option to create common culture between two or more people and therefore making you not being alone anymore. Maybe then, you are still lonely but you are definitely not alone anymore. But that is a different discussion.
Thus, by choice you can be a loner but not by default anymore. Maybe that makes us more happy in average? Traveling quite a lot, I am happy about all that means of communication. I can stay in contact over a long period of time (say one or more years) without really meeting people but still being connected to them, thus keeping my circle of friends. When it comes to a face-to-face meeting, I know that it worked out quite well. Personally, I put a premium on it and it paid out a dozen times already. Thanks for modern means of communication which enable to stay in contact with my friends. Thanks to my friends to bear with me even though they do not have a chance to meet me a lot. There is always more than one side to it… .