Saturday, November 03, 2007

nablopomo 07 in context

I read on a now lost link, that 43% of Australians value their online friends as much as their real, embodied friends.

That's nice. I hear where they're coming from.

I've certainly enjoyed meeting people around the world in the blogosphere, but I've been pondering this long and hard. Do I value my online friends as much as my real, embodied friends who I can meet for coffee?

I'm not sure actually. I value my local friends. That's a given. I value my online friends and I feel somewhat bereft when they don't blog or comment for a few days. (this extends beyond my endless quest for as many comments as Fussy) At times I'm even fearful something might have happened to them if they haven't been around their usual haunts for a while. But that's different from valuing them more than my real life, ridgy didge friends.

My conclusion so far is that I value my online friends, but not as much as my here-with-me-now friends. I'd be crazy to prefer the company of a virtually unknown voice coming to me through the computer over the company of a warm, soft, lovely body that speaks melodically to my heart.

Thinking about this has reminded me of an interesting reading from my counselling studies. Among other things, it made some powerful statements about the use of computers in our society:

Technology is not merely augmenting but replacing real human contact. Already Americans [sic] are alarmingly comfortable with this idea.

Kanner and Gomes 1995 in Pierce 2003:226

The content of what we use computers for may be far less significant than the fact that we use them. Simply spending time engaged in computer activity drives the wedge deeper between humans, and between humans and nature. The instantaneous quality of electronic technology and the computerized world has so conditioned us to the accelerated speed of modern life that we are impatient and uncomfortable with the slower rhythms and cycles of the natural world, including our own biological, emotional and mental healing processes.
Pierce 2003:226

Computers compete for our attention with socially based satisfactions and communion with the natural world.
Pierce 2003:226

These statements were all made in the context of ecotherapy, a fascinating branch of psychology that links poor mental health with the loss of our connection to the earth. Computers are used as one example of the way we are cut off from the natural way of being.

It's unlikely that I will stop using the computer. I probably won't even stop blogging (I am participating in NaBloPoMo 07 after all), but it does temper some of my devotion to my online friends. Yes, I care about you. Yes, I am interested in what is going on in your lives! But if my interest in you causes me to spend too little time with my real and present friends that is a problem.

Good food for thought I think as I take these early steps into the all consumingness of NaBloPoMo. Blog daily, but participate with reverence and respect for the real world.

Pierce, G. 2003, 'Ecotherapy' in Health Counseling: Application and Therapy, Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, Belmont, CA, pp 219-237.

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At 9:38 pm, November 03, 2007, Blogger mountainmama said...

I've had similar reflections, and love your take on the subject, the way you phrased it ("...the company of a warm, soft, lovely body that speaks melodically to my heart..."), and the conclusion you reached.

As I begin to blog daily, I keep an ear to the sounds of natural world outside - the plip of raindrops on the tin roof, the squawking of the minah birds, the click of the dog's toenails on the verandah timbers. These sounds anchor me in the real world, as I reach out into the ether.

At 6:08 am, November 04, 2007, Anonymous Sandy said...

This is so practical Cecily. One nice thing about us cyberspace friends is the low maintenance of the relationship. We can carry on our lives as usual with no real problems about conflict. One problem though, I will miss my cyberspace friends when they are no longer reachable. Who would have ever thought that missing someone you never met would be possible.

At 6:23 am, November 04, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

This is a bit deep for just after 6am! Its interesting though, I've got quite a lot of online friends through message boards as well as blogging and I do genuinely appreciate their friendship, but its definitely not the same as when I spend time with my IRL friends. And I've found it sad when a couple of my friends, IRL and cyber have withdrawn into a "cyberworld". One said that she literally has no friends outside of her computer, which I think is terribly sad.
I'm glad I get to be your friend IRL, albeit longdistance, and that technology has made catching up with you so easy! (which reminds me that I'm very overdue on ringing you - sorry!)

At 11:56 am, November 04, 2007, Blogger Deanna said...

Very well put, Cecily. I'd have felt uncomfortable, to say the least, if you decided you value online friendships more than real life ones. This cyberworld is a tool for connecting, but as Sandy said it's low maintenance. Convenience is what my selfish self thinks she prefers, but in reality I need to give and receive and face the struggle of full relationships.

At 2:15 am, November 05, 2007, Blogger Cherie said...

Superb, Cecily! Food for thought, and a subject we need to contemplate much more.

What I find great is that some of my 'online friends' have become genuine real-life friends. That's the best of the deal, huh.

At 7:41 am, November 05, 2007, Blogger Mike S said...

I too have some 'online friends' that have become 'real world' friends. It truly is a phenomenon that we miss those who we've allowed to become a small part of our lives, but only know from 'the net'.

At 3:55 pm, November 05, 2007, Anonymous Jenny said...



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