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Tag Archives: society

I see this argument often.  I hear “adults” (whatever that means) lament at how impersonal we are becoming as humans.  We spend more time watching videos on the internet, blogging, and not actively engaging each other face to face.  Even this very blog post, which i’m unsure even has a single reader would be proof that we are beginning to become a loner species.

There’s something a little strange I’ve noticed about the people who have asserted this however.  I’m always skeptical of how involved they are with communities on the internet.  Their descriptions make sense when looked at with the idea of our new tendency to “be alone” if you assume that our stake in online communities are ephemeral and unimportant.

Well, then why have I been a member of LUElinks (now known as for nearly a decade?  For people completely unaware of what this website is/was, it began as a spin-off from a GameFAQs message board called “Life, The Universe, and Everything”, and contained links to content that was against the GameFAQs terms of service.

When megaupload was destroyed by the US Government in an attempt to enforce archaic copyright laws, the “links” portion of LUElinks was destroyed.  The database itself was erased, and no longer existed.  The owner of the website made a public statement that the original intention of LUElinks was never to support piracy in the first place, and that by the time the community had built itself around it, he felt unable to change the direction without destroying the culture that had emerged.  This is also why the site was renamed, because we had outgrown our relation to GameFAQs, and had created a culture that extended beyond simply Terms of Service rebellion.

Now, I want you to think about what I just said.  An internet forum of approximately 10,000-15,000 active users was described by the creator as having a CULTURE The members of ETI, myself included, feel that this community should continue to thrive.  We care.  It is personal to us.

There is no better example I can give to prove how personal it has become than suicide attempts by members of the community.  On multiple occasions, members posted on the board suggesting they were going to end their lives.  They have done so anonymously, or freely attaching their username.  Some simply joked about it, never intending to do it, but displaying clear suicidal tendencies.  Some actually succeeded in ending their lives.  Whatever the case may be, these people thought themselves alone, and one of their last acts of self preservation was to reach out, and tell the only people they believed would listen to them, what they had planned.

In every case, there is overwhelming community response to even suggesting one might commit suicide.  The internet detectives pull out their magnifying glasses, moderators utilize ip logging tools to identify locale, and whatever information is available via the internet (apparently there is alot) is used to notify authorities in the area, and send help as soon as possible.  These people, as vitriolic as they may be with each other when arguing over politics, care.

I have had the pleasure of meeting around 50-70 members of the community in person, and have at times forged quite strong relationships with some.  I have also had severe falling outs with these same people.

But the question stands, is it impersonal even though I have spent so much time on the community?  I read so many of their opinions, and gloss over their names, not really caring who they are when discussing the important matters at hand (like the hilarity/non-hilarity of ).

I can only answer that with another question, unfortunately.  How is that different from our daily discussions and interactions with people in “real life”? (By the way, last time I checked, the internet is part of reality, and is therefore part of “real life”).

Really though, how we handle interpersonal communication with each other on a face to face basis is vastly different than reading, considering, and formulating a written response.  Or is it?

In some cases we find ourselves misinterpreting the written message of someone, opening the quick response prompt, and take a warm shit on the page with sarcasm and dismissal.

This sounds eerily similar to friends bantering with one another.

The question remains, still, how much do we CARE about these people.  What level of influence do we allow them in our lives?  How much do we value their input?  Can we call them “friends”, or are they simply no more than colleagues and acquaintances?  These are all very valid questions.

They are all very valid questions we ask ourselves about people in our own lives.  At least we should ask these questions of everyone in our lives.  To put it bluntly, we always consider “is this person worth my time?” when deciding whether or not to invest ourselves in someone.

So the answer to the question remains… how is it different than having a large social circle in which you know little about a lot of people, and a lot about a few?

Having “grown up” on the internet, being part of these communities since the ripe old age of 10… there is no difference.

What sparked this post was a reaction to a recent video response I made on youtube to a video Veritasium posted.  I was responding to a science experiment, predicting what i believed was causing the reactions.  In the follow up video revealing the solution, Derek made note of how many video responses he received and seemed genuinely elated as what he saw as people taking his channel and actively applying themselves to science.  That was his goal to begin with.

Then I remembered the book Alone Together, which talks somewhat about what i discussed above.  I recalled conversations I’ve had with my parents, and how surprised they were to know some of my good friends were people I had originally met on the internet.  And here was an interaction between people on the internet via video that had generated an emotional response in someone… I can’t help but call bullshit on something somewhere suggesting we are LESS personal when on the internet we are MORE FREE to discuss our true thoughts.  It’s so much more personal.