Monday 19 September 2011

It's not what you know

Internet WITS - and there's a lot of them about oh my brothers - will have you know that instant messaging is for people you know, Facebook is for people you wish you didn't know and Twitter is people you wish you knew. From a personal standpoint, I dispute that, because by a process of a careful and brutal (a real heavy-handed Stalinist brutality) pruning of your lists of friends, followers, disciples (call them what you will), you can very much change your experience. However, I can't deny that there is also a kernel of truth in it.

A lot of the people I know now, I first met online. When I was first able to say that it was a strange thing, now it's very much less so. Although there's still a frisson of weirdness, geekiness and non-social acceptability about it. However, I would like to argue that the people who argue that it's weird are probably the same people who sit around moaning about all the stupid, pointless and racist things people on their Facebook have said.

Because getting to know people online first is good. It honestly is. Where Facebook has never won me over is that it's a place for people you already know, not somewhere to do any actual networking. It's a useful tool, certainly, especially for arranging things. But beyond that I have little interaction with it.

The people who complain about Facebook are often people who are following everyone they've ever encountered, out of a sense of duty. I'm not criticising this. Office politics, family loyalty and old school ties can force one's hand and make these things unavoidable. But it's the people who you've met in real life first who will usually be the ones to suddenly come out violently in favour of "sending everyone with a 'Z' in their surname back to where they came from", or "building a death camp on the Isle of Wight".

This year I've made a number of new friends via Twitter and have now met several of them in actual real life and everything! The best part is there's few surprises there. For dedicated Twitterers like myself, there's no place to hide. I tweet pretty much every day that it's convenient for me to do so. People will know about the gloom, the frenzy, the whimsy, the gormlessness, the sweetness and the unpredictablity which are likely to make up a fully-fledged Dotmoment. Prolonged exposure to anyone in an online community is very revealing, especially once you are experienced in that arena and can read between the lines a little better.

I'm not saying that in future, everyone should live in a little box and only physically meet people that they've really got to know online first. But at the same time that is exactly what I'm saying. Let's make it happen today!


Fran said...

Completely agree. It's like internet dating. That makes sooo much more sense to me than simply seeing someone across a club (a club where you probably hate the music and are drunk I might add) and expecting a life long relationship to come out of it based entirely on whether "you think they are fit". Plus internet people get other internet people because they don't think the internet is full of weirdos.

alicestronaut said...

I agree as well, it's why twitter is so good - it's a little window straight into someone's brain and you can tell within a few tweet whether you will get on with someone or not regardless of whether you have seen their wedding photos or been invited to their gig.

And also, I met you on it. HOORAY!

Lolly said...

Isn't it just brilliant to find yourself surrounded by the most brilliant people ever, and be all smug and happy knowing that they jumped out of your computer screen? Not everyone gets it, or trusts it, so let them judge or laugh and miss out. How lucky we are to end up with relationships that have stronger foundations for having been based on a discussion over photos of dinners, or blog posts, or good natured twitter arguments or terrible 140-character-long jokes. These are the things that elevate Internet People from people you were forced to share a desk with, or put in a class with. My first draft of this was better but there was An Incident. WOO INTERNET

dotmund said...

I'd love to one day be able to say that I'd met everyone I follow on Twitter. Not least because every single time I meet a new one it makes me happier for the whole experience. Not just briefly, either, but for good.

This is because I follow only the coolest cats, yes. But I'm sure if I then met all the people that all the people I follow follow, the same thing would happen again and again.

This is of course bad news for Fran and Lolly, as that terrifying day still awaits you. Although Alice has now met me twice and was hardly even sick at all! Hooray!

(From now on, by the way, I may insist on all comments being accompanied by An Incident.)


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