Human Connections

“The Web confronts us with a different sort of brute fact: we are creatures who care about ourselves and the world we share with others; we live within a context of meaning; the world is richer with meaning than we can imagine.”

– David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web.

I have to admit, although I know that the internet is wonderful technology, I worry about the state of human relations.  There are, what seems to be, millions of ways to connect with other people – email, IM, facebook, twitter, skype, blogs, etc.  However, I tend to think that the more we try to connect with each other, the less we  are actually communicating.  Teenagers on a bus filled with other teenagers all seem to be texting.  A group of colleagues go out and they are all on their blackberries.  How many deep, meaningful, conversations are these people having? Don’t even get me started on the state of bullying in today’s schools. It disgusts me and I blame it largely on the internet.

In the past few weeks, I have already learned a lot about web.  I definitely see the potential it has on the academic world and how easy it is to exchange information with each other (not only across space and time, but also across disciplines).  However,  there hasn’t been much to help ease my fears about the state of our society.

Until, that is, I read the preface of David Weinberger’s, Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web.

In this preface, Weinberger touches on sociology and the web.  He says that the hype and success of the web is due to human’s inherent need to make meaningful connections with other people.  Our relationships define us and without them we are nothing or, as he puts it “maroon us on a desert isle, and we’ll form an association with a volley ball if we have to.”

The web isn’t something that’s happening to us, it’s happening because of us and our inherent need for human relationships.  So, while I still worry about the state of our society, Weinberger has given me a little bit of hope and something to contemplate.  Perhaps the web is helping us more than I think. Perhaps our internet connections are more meaningful than they appear.

For an example of this, check out the website First Person Arts and the First Person Arts Museum. First Person Arts aims to share the stories of all types of people through words, music, film and more.  They actively involve people whose voices and stories are still largely unheard in today’s world.  If you need a bit of internet uplifting (in light of some of its more upsetting uses), then this is a good place to look.


2 thoughts on “Human Connections

  1. I always wonder about how meaningful our online relationships are. Do we really get any true satisfaction from “communicating” via Facebook wall-posts and Tweets? I’m not sure. There’s a certain pleasure in posting on someone’s wall, but then again there’s a certain irritating distance that you can feel.
    Somehow the feeling is different, and less annoying, when the context is more academic, e.g. commenting on someone’s blog. There’s something about short little “personal” comments on Facebook that annoys me and something about blog discussions that doesn’t annoy me. Maybe it’s because I think there is some actual communication going on in a good blog discussion and that Facebook talk is just irritating fluff. I’m not sure exactly.. but those are some of my thoughts.

  2. I definitely agree with you. There’s something more substantial about reading and commenting on a blog. It means that you have read someone’s thoughts and ideas, processed them, come up with your own ideas and prepared a response. It can take a bit of time and just seems more communicative than texting, tweeting, etc. I also think that when people participate in these more substantial forms of online communication (blogging, commenting, etc), they are genuinely looking to engage in a good conversation.

    Of course, it’s hard to compare these types discussions / tools, because they are meant and designed for different objectives (facebook and twitter being quick status updates, basically, and blogging a more in depth exchange of information). But, if the majority of people generally only engage in the quicker forms of communication, which I suspect is true, then we still need to examine how the internet is affecting our communication skills and human relationships.

    Thanks for the great comment and conversation!

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