I was reading “Lonely in the Electronic Wilderness” by Handan T. Satiroglu. It’s an interesting insight into how society has changed thanks to the Internet. Really, the big “I” internet was meant as a tool to share info. There is definitely some strong truths to it from my point of view. I’ve actually begun to wonder if we’ve forgotten how to make friends outside of the internet. We certainly have colleagues and associates at work and at our other temporary social gatherings but those close, dear friends are farther and farther apart. We turn to the internet to make social connections that are somewhat cold and calculated, useful for our time and place of things. I suspect that is why we see many people who have lots of online “friends” or “acquaintances” and yet, feel so lonely.
It’s not to say that this method of communication doesn’t open doors for those who are truly challenged otherwise by society. As a former introvert to the extreme, the internet opened gateways for me that I would never would have imagined. It allowed me a voice to be myself and move beyond the binary of 1s and 0s. But at the same time I longed for something more. I’ve been lucky that in work (P, V and S) I’ve had a few people who I’ve connected to on a more personal basis and feel a friendship there (not a deep friendship but more than an acquaintance, that’s for sure). And I consider myself lucky to have those friendships. I also know I’ve connected with a few online who I’ve met in person and have transformed from just online acquaintances to something more than just friend (perhaps not quite to full deep BFF but close to that). The likes of Arwen, Stephanie and Merrick — in addition to my K — are definitely in that category.
And then there’s my students. While many of them pop up now and again, a few I stay in semi-regular contact with (*waves to Matt*). I still have a few friends from high school (I get to meet up with one next week after not seeing each other for nearly 5 years). Much like my cousin in Alberta, we can pick up where we left off as if nothing happened. Those are the friends that I hold the dearest to me as they’ve known me for far too long and still accept me as I am. The one thing I want (and I’ve mentioned this to K) is to stop moving around. I want to be in a place long enough to make local friends and connections, regulars I can hang with and perhaps even “HERF” (enjoy cigars) with in the backyard or local cigar store. And I want our kids to have an opportunity to have long term friends to turn to for love, laughter, squabbels, support and other things that make us whole. More importantly, I want them to be able to do this in real time and not just online (it’s foolish to assume that there will not be a long term impact or permanence to online friendships and such).
One of the ways I combat being only online is my job (by nature of being an instructor you have to have an investment into your student body and care about their success). In addition to that, the support group I go to. We have created friendships outside of that and it’s been helpful. Although I’m often feeling my age around the younger guys, I still feel like I belong and that matters a lot to me. The one thing that I might yet still explore for more connections is my spiritual search. The challenge is the fact that I’m always on the road and often exhausted by the end of a teaching day. This summer promises no exception since most of May and June I’ll be on the road (including visits to San Francisco, Denver and Dallas forecasted in addition to teaching NYC).
I’m curious as to what others do to find human contact outside of the electronic world. What’s your secret for this?