Sometimes, I’m surprised by how social networks make the world seem very small and connected more than I expected. As an example, it wasn’t until I became Facebook friends with an Ignite friend that I found out that she is related to my cousins from my mom’s second marriage. And just a couple of days ago, I saw another unexpected, but not as surprising, example of how we really are connected in one way or another to each other.
I’m the main closing manager at the restaurant I work at. Together, I work mainly with one other person. Over the last year, we’ve gotten to know each other. And we talk a lot. Earlier in the week, he was talking about his most recent Craigslist purchase. He shops Craigslist all the time. And often on his phone during lulls in the action at work. He mentioned that this lady who sold him some Manga stuff (whatever that means)(Please don’t explain it to me), had asked if she could be his friend on Facebook. When I first heard him say this, I laughed. He has a Facebook account. But, NEVER uses it. In fact, he doesn’t even have access to it because he forgot the password. Well, apparently he was able to approve her friend request. And she became his one and only friend. His girlfriend isn’t even his friend. The other night, I decided to see if I could find his account. It wasn’t too hard. And sure enough, he has only one friend. I clicked on her profile and saw that she and I had one mutual friend. Yes, that’s right. This girl in her 20’s who lives down somewhere in the southern part of the metro area and who I have never met, is friends with a girl who used to work with me up north at our other location. I checked in with my former coworker and found out that she went to middle school with this girl. And they used to be very close friends.
I remember during early days of the internet, concerned citizen groups would come foreword for 30 second evening news sound bites to derail the internet for isolating each of us from one another. There were actual people who were concerned that we no longer would sit across from one another and chat about our day with a friend or loved one. I never bought that idea. The internet, from day one, has been all about communication. Email, instant messaging, blogging, and message boards were all ways people were able to communicate with friends who are too far away from one another to sit at the same table.
Today, with the rise of social networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+, we are able bring ourselves closer to one another. Not further apart. Take me, as an example. I suffer from social anxiety. I’ve always gravitated toward the computer as a way of keeping a connection with the outside world. I had a very hard time working and socializing around other people. As soon as I made eye contact with anybody, I couldn’t’ talk. Now, medication has been a god send. It really has. But, I’ve turned my tendency to lean on the computer as a crutch into my way back to face to face socializing. When twitter introduced lists, I made a list for people I wanted to meet. And another for people I had already met face to face. I’ve used twitter to let people know I would be at Ignite. And then, I’ve met at least one person at every Ignite Boulder for almost two years now. A couple of friends have told me now that they don’t see the person who says she suffers from social anxiety when they see how many people I talk with at Ignite.
Without the internet, and Twitter especially, I would be a lonely and scared girl. Sure, there are plenty of ways you can say the internet is fracturing us. Just look at the current state of political discourse. But, I choose to look at the ways it is bringing us closer together.
And no. I’m still not ready to thank Al Gore.