Illustration by Louise Boulter.
Excerpt from this article:
Yeah, yeah, I might have loads of Facebook friends but it’s my REAL friends, the ones I see every day in the office, or went to school with who matter… It’s what you’re supposed to say, isn’t it? The internet has ruined friendships. It’s made a mockery of carefully built up relationships. It’s no substitute for REAL LIFE interaction. Pressing the ‘like’ button has replaced caring for people. Online interactions damage ‘real’ interactions.
…Through [online] groups I connected with a clutch of incredibly like-minded people; people who sit alone at home all day, often in their pyjamas, typing on their laptops, writing articles read by millions of people, influencing decisions and generally producing stuff that would make you think they were a lot cooler than they really are. Suddenly I had met my peer group, people I could talk to about my work who knew what being a freelancer feels like and who understood that interviewing a rock star was sometimes the least glamorous thing in your life.
Excerpt from this article (I still love sending and receiving postcards, but is this a dying art in the digital age?):
Kunshan is just west of Shanghai, in the heart of modernizing China. But finding a postcard, finding a stamp, getting that stamp to stick, finding a place to mail the postcard — even just getting anyone on this state-of-the-art campus to accept the idea of putting a letter in the mail — have proved a challenge, and not just because of my wobbly Chinese. In my travels to the tourist traps around Kunshan, I have seen exactly one Chinese person writing a postcard.
…For many Americans, sending a postcard from an exotic locale is still a mainstay of modern travel, if only to prove you actually went somewhere. It’s short and sweet, no heavy messaging required, the Twitter of a block-print age. And who doesn’t enjoy finding a handwritten missive among the supermarket fliers and other invasive species that swarm our mailboxes?
…The relative rarity of the handwritten postcard here is symptomatic of a pell-mell rush toward a digital and depersonalized future. It seems sad to see the broad strokes of Chinese culture and communication shrunk to a 3-by-5-inch screen, and delicate brush lettering now reduced to pecking with two thumbs.
Americans like to imagine that we are the most tech-savvy, if not tech-addled country on the planet. But we have nothing on China. Which means if you visit the Middle Kingdom, plan on sending a selfie from in front of Mao’s tomb to prove you were here. But forget about mailing Mom a postcard.
Photo: Heide Benser/Corbis
Excerpt from this article:
It is part of the modern condition to pose and posture online, and it can be very fun to make fun of the various ways in which people make asses of themselves. But the unfiltered nature and open playing field of social media make it easy to forget that it’s all a performance. In person, Michael was great! Really and truly. His terrible use of social media was part deliberate schtick and part stone-cold, childlike buffoonery, but it was all very lovable.
…The gap between public and private personae used to be the exclusive concern of entertainers, but now anybody who wants to can live Martin. Plenty of prestige bloggery has been devoted to analyzing the phenomenon of “social-media happiness fraud,” which we’ve somehow elevated to Russian-novel levels of agony: Those people posing in bikinis? Don’t feel too envious of them, we’ve been told, for they are dead inside, too.
The ability to “research” people this way has already been catastrophic for casual dating, as we’ve all been forced to reduce other human beings to a series of forensic clues so as not to be murdered or have a boring two hours at a restaurant. While certainly expedient, the newish convention of deciding whether you like somebody before you have ever been in their physical presence is both depressing and a teensy bit unfair. Doing it to people we are already in actual relationships with is bananas and horrible. I’ve had to defend friends to the friends I’m trying to set them up with by saying things like “She’s not like this in person.” It is possible to excessively photograph your cat and be lovely to spend time with. It would be cool if we could just maybe start giving people the benefit of the doubt on this.
Excerpt from this article:
…Relationships that travel from the Internet to the nondigital world, or navigate a space somewhere in between, have retained that same patina of weirdness. The stigma associated with online friendship, that persistent doubt that “real” intimacy can only be created via physical encounter, has not faded. Even in this, the Age of Social Media, when virtual interaction populates almost every facet of daily existence, online friendships are still viewed with suspicion. But they shouldn’t be. The time has come to obliterate the false distinctions between digital ties and the ones that bind us in the physical world. Our lives on Twitter and Tumblr are today a real part of our real lives. Everyone is an Internet friend.
…The anxiety still lingering around Internet friendship is a legacy of a particular antiquated conception of online life—a sense that “the Net,” like jetpacks and the Segway, was going to be a lot cooler than it has proven to be. The 1980s-era techno-utopian vision of “cyberspace” as a separate, and perhaps even pure, Matrix-style realm of glowing tubes and binary code was a false one. “At no point was there ever a cyberspace,” Jurgenson said. “It was always deeply about this one reality.” The Internet is shopping for knitted caps and sharing coupons for bad meals and enduring comments from sexist strangers. It has always included an element of real life difficulty, and the primordial web denizens knew it. Now, the rest of us do, too. We once fetishized cyberspace as sexy and revolutionary. Today it’s just normal.
Online friendships make it clear—and forgive the debt to Facebook—that the way we friend now has changed. Intimacy now develops in both digital and physical realms, often crossing freely between the two. If we accept the equal value of virtual friendships to their IRL analogues (perhaps even doing away with the pejorative acronym), we open ourselves up to a range of new possibilities for connection.
“The Internet represents a broadening of the spectrum of relationships we can have,” Jenna Wortham, a New York Times Magazine writer known for the prolificacy of her online social life, told me. “I have lots of online-, Gchat-only friendships and I love them. I’m very comfortable with the fact that I don’t know [these people] in real life and I don’t have any plans to.” The merit of these friendships lies in their mutability—in your pocket, on your screen, in your living room. Discarding the distinction between real and virtual friendship does not doom us to a society in which tweets, chat, and e-mail are our only points of contact. It just means that the stranger we meet every day on the other side of our screens will no longer be a stranger, but someone that we know and trust.