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What is the “value” of online connections? May 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ms.M @ 8:46 am

Is it possible to be too connected? Or is that automatically better than being unconnected. And what about all these online connections? I think about this sometimes. There are so many online spaces now, spaces to connect with a wide variety of people. But even in the midst of all this connection there is also isolation, there is also a sort of devaluing of real connection.  I’ve heard both the positives and negatives of computer interactions and to be honest I’m not sold on either. In some ways I think of it the same way I think of the “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument. Computers don’t pull people apart, or bring them together necessarily; seeking connections has always been a way of life, it’s now just flourishing in a new environment. Computers are the gateway to that space, but people can choose to make of it what they will.

The tragedy would be if people were to begin to think of connections as sorts of objects; not real people of which there may be some level of care or love. It’s not the people they are connected with, therefore, that are of value, but just the fact that they are a connection. I get pretty frustrated when people mention networking for jobs in this sort of light. It’s not the fact that you may encounter individuals that just in your interactions you find valuable, but only that these individuals may be portals to your own personal and financial well-being. When “networking” becomes a sort of tool it loses what made it most valuable in the first place. I think this can easily happen online because we are not in the physical presence of these people, we have no responsibility to them, whether or not we “care” about them can be of little concern.

In our physical communities there is, or one hopes there is, that sort of give and take. I value your presence as much as anything else. What you have done for me I do in return because I value you, care about you, not because it is obligation or because you are in my “network”. But what happens when the “communities” are in this in-between, where they are neither completely real, or completely illusion? Do we lose that sort of relationship? Or does it stay the same? I’m not completely sure.

I would think the best online connections share the same characteristics of the best physical connections. I would also think that creating great online connections would happen better locally than globally so that some sort of “real world” connection would at least eventually be possible. I see online communities as extentions of, not replacements for, offline communities. I think we put ourselves in a heap of trouble if we ever think otherwise.

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