Monday, October 20, 2003
I am feeling much better today. I still have a cough, but physically I feel a lot better than yesterday and last night.

I'm getting a little annoyed with this day and age of computers. Yes, they do serve their purpose, but a lot of people spend as much time or more on the computer than those people do who watch TV. The computer users have only found another distracting habit that takes away from living life to its potential. Now, the computer can be useful in many ways, but I know from first hand experience, and from watching others that in many ways it can be harmful. For one thing, there is the whole chatting online thing, which is a cheap way to communicate with family and/or friends if they live long distances, but then there are the online chats with strangers which lead to internet relationships, which lead to problems. I was reading an article online the other day about symptoms and signs that your spouse is having an online affair. This would include spending long amounts of time on the computer, quickly hiding screens when he or she walks into the room, never wanting to go out or spend long amounts of time away from the computer, etc, etc, etc...

I mean, look at the ways in which I use a computer-I use it for journaling. I am not journaling with paper and pen, but here online. This is useful to me, because I can type very fast, and have found that I journal now, but never kept it up before because it just took too much time to write my thoughts down.

I also use the computer to send/receive e-mails. If I don't get a certain amount of e-mails, I tend to send them out to ensure that I'll get some in return. It is about keeping in touch with people and keeping the lines of communication open. To me, e-mailing is faster than calling someone on the phone, so I tend to use e-mail as my primary mode of communication. When I was younger, I used to use the telephone as my primary mode of communication, and as my secondary mode of communication, it was writing letters.

Thirdly, I use the computer to read the news, and to get information online about certain subjects in which I am interested.

Lastly, I use the computer to update Quicken and my Fertility Awareness Program daily.

I learned from experience how addicting other uses of the internet are. Because of this, I no longer participate in online chats with strangers and am very opposed to internet dating. What happens is you become unnaturally connected to people. You feel guilty if you cannot check the posts at least several times per day. When I say unnaturally connected, I mean that the relationship (s) progress at a much faster rate than they would in real life. This is one reason I am highly opposed to internet dating. You tend to divulge too much of yourself to someone (s) that you have never met. Because of this, you feel intimately bound to these relationship (s). I do not feel this is a good thing. If you compare how people behave online to the way they behave in real life, chances are you'll see two different behavior patterns. For example, one person might be very introverted in real life, but online he or she divulges all to perfect strangers, but can't seem to do that with the friends and family all around them. This goes without mentioning that the hours upon hours in which one spends online is time spent AWAY from those family and friends. This also goes without mentioning that time online is time you are spending in your own little world. Now, we ALL need those things to help us to zone out every once in awhile, but there does come a point when too much is too much. A good book can draw you in and help you to live in a different world (the world inside the book) for a little while. Television also helps one to zone out. The computer is another one of those ways in which we zone out. The question you have to ask is when is too much too much? When you get to the point where you'd rather sit on the computer all day than motivate yourself to do anything else, is this the point where you ought to draw the line?

I used to chat online with my x-boyfriend for hours upon hours every single day. It was a long distance relationship, and to tell you the truth, the total days we spent together probably amounted to one month total. However, the hours and hours we spent online together totaled over a year. So, over a year, I was online for hours and hours every day, and not living my life. I will never get the year I was 22 back ever again. What I found out at the end of what I call an internet relationship (we did not meet online, but our relationship was restricted to the chat rooms due to distance), was that all I had was a set of falsehoods. Who I was online was not who I was in real life, and who he was online was not how he was in real life. Why do you think people freak out when the person they've been talking to online wants to meet? It's because they are scared that the person they've been talking to won't be the person they've been talking to online, and vise versa. It is also because you realize that this person you've been talking to online knows a hell of a lot more about you than anyone one else on the planet (which gives you a false sense of intimacy with that person), and all because you were talking to a fricking computer monitor-not a live person. Because this person knows so much about you, it is scary to think about seeing someone (who you may or may not have ever met personally) who knows quite a lot about you eye to eye. To me, this is NOT a natural form of closeness between two people.

When you're online, you're typing the part of your persona which you want the person on the other end of the communication to see. They can't see anything else but the part you let them see by what you type. In real life, no matter how you try to hide who you are from friends and family, the parts of you that are supposedly hidden do rise to the surface in unconscious movements of the body and insinuations in language, which slowly reveal to others parts of who you are. One thing that is dangerous about online relationships is that you are only divulging the one part of yourself that you know will spark what you want to get back in return.

Bottom line-I feel that groups which help to provide information that you are seeking are helpful. However, I do not believe that online friendships or lovers are a positive. This activity does not teach you to live. It does not teach you anything about being a social person. It is just you and your monitor. It's the same as talking to yourself with the person of your choice online who fits your ideal of the "perfect" listener or the "perfect" significant other, etc, etc, etc. Yes, it can be dangerous if you are stupid enough to let an internet relationship destroy your marriage or your life, but my primary concern is that it does not teach people to be honest with people who are IN THEIR LIVES. It does, however, condone opening up to people through a mode of communication in which there is not a person sitting across the table from you and looking you in the eye. This mode of communication condones PARTIAL expression of self to the unknown. I say partial, because the "unknown" does not see you day to day. That is, the people to whom you are engaging in heart to heart conversations with do not see the whole of who you are. They only see the part you type to them, and this is minus your living breathing self which in and OF ITSELF divulges quite a lot of information to anyone around you. No matter how hard you try to hide insecurity, for example, it becomes apparent in one way or another to those around you. It is pretty easy to hide insecurities when typing to a computer monitor.

All this to say, I am getting more and more disappointed with the engagement by many members of society in online chats and chatrooms that do not facilitate growth of a person as a part of community with others. Time online is time spent away from community. Yes, you can argue that chat groups are their own community, but are they really? Don't they take away from real life community, which is you and those around you (not those scattered all over the world logged into your chat group)?

What I'm trying to say is that it makes me angry when I hear people pursuing friendships online instead of in real life. It is almost like these chat rooms breed insecurity, because it makes you feel like you have friends who really know you, and then you are content to sit at your computer all day without actually going out and making a real friend in the world (or for that matter BEING a real friend to someone in the world). The people online that give you a sense of friendship and "being cared about" are not people you will probably ever meet. Even if you did, you probably wouldn't like them in real life, because their real life character would sharply contrast to what you interpreted them to be online. And, at the end of it all, you have nothing in the end, because who looks back and remembers the best internet friend they ever had? No one. People remember friends that can hug them and go out to coffee with them and smile at them and love them for who they are in person, not for who they are online. If you are really honest with yourself, you will realize that you don't really care deep down about the people behind the screen names online, but you do care about the people you can touch-those in your community and your family/friends.

Today, I condemn the internet and chat rooms, chat groups to the place of no return, and say this:
Why not the library?
Why not a phone call instead of an e-mail?
Why not a real life friend instead of a computer monitor?
And, why not be a friend to someone around you instead of putting those online above those that you love most?

Plato said representation was two removes from reality. To me, the relationships made online are definitely two removes from reality, and, in fact very far from reality.

We need to be approaching and striving for reality, not falling away from it as we approach something far removed from reality, which is, in fact, approaching the fictitious.

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