“People and institutions exist now in information and communication ecologies that are strikingly different from the ones that existed just a generation ago…It is not an either-in person OR online dichotomy; it is an in-person AND the internet AND mobile contact comprehensiveness.” – Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman, “Networked.”
Reading this book is like a breath of fresh air. Of relief. You mean all this time stuck in my PDA or online doesn’t mean that I’m a misanthrope? Despite some outcries to the contrary (“it’s all ego,” “everyone’s detached these days!”), it is with a profound sense of relief that I place myself squarely in the Networked camp.
Social networking and creating relationships are not just for the in-person meet anymore. Staying face to face means missing out on the richness of interchange this is humming and thriving right past your keyboard. Social networking means tapping into Facebook, to Twitter, to blogs. And it also means calling your friend and arranging for an in-person meet.
Nine years ago I moved from New York City to Vancouver, Canada, leaving my entire world behind. Thank god we had cellphones. Now with Skype, I can easily video chat my family and friends. With my cheap North American calling plan, I can call my American peeps from the car when I’m commuting. Grabbing a five minute conversation on the go rather than having to wait for a landline at home and paying through the nose. I could also simply Skype the for free, if I weren’t so distracted by video when driving. In the interim, I can read my friends’ blogs, send them articles, like their Facebook postings, and stay tuned into their lives even through I’m far away. Then when I get on a plane and see them face to face, it’s as if we never really had a break.
I embrace my Networked identity. We reach out more, and we also become more autonomous, relying on 1-1 connections rather than more traditional in-person group identities. Each network a snowflake. No two networks alike.
And how three-dimensional will our wonderful webs become? Are we in store for the “Metaverse” (a “convergence of 1. virtually enhanced physical reality and 2. physically persistent virtual space”) or where part of our brain consists of an external hard drive that connects wirelessly to our organic matter (oh wait, that’s our smartphone, we’ve already got that). My grandmother was born without running water. Now she has an Ipad. What changes have been wrought in this life time! What changes are yet to come!
Rainie, L. & Wellman, B. Networked (2012).
Photo cropped from original.