Monday, January 4, 2010

Living Life On-Line

I found the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project's 2009 Predictions Survey on Time Goes By and found myself waxing eloquent while making predictions on issues I know nothing about. Nor did I have any notion if what I was saying was true. But it was fun to rant and rave in someone else's venue... and the instructions said that they'd take you more seriously if you started the screed with your name.

THAT gave me cause for pause. Was I me myself going to be answering the questions or would Ashleigh weigh in? Because this felt somewhat less public than the Burrow, and because it seemed scholarly and worldly, A/B took a back seat and I was on my way..... though with the question of identity firmly lodged in my brain.

Will Google make us stupid? I giggle now when I think of it. It's a great question. It's also not an easy one, and I wanted to get it right. The pressure was on.

From "how will we think" the survey moved on to "what will community look like?". Anyone who's reading this or writing one of these can guess my answer to that one - we are so much more connected by instant access to each other over the ether that friendships stay kindled and new alliances and relationships and interactions and intersections are happening all the time. The outlines of the community may look different than they did a decade or two ago, but real bonds are formed and a sense of togetherness (my own personal definition of community) certainly exists.

The question about sharing information as one ages brought me right back to identity and anonymity and community. The Big Cuter was and is his Everquest avatar as his avatar reflects the real person typing on the keyboard. In the game he was a guild leader at 16. I have a hard time believing that the other players would have elected him in person, since he was among the youngest members of the guild. Yet, in his on-line persona, he was cajoled and coaxed and convinced to take the leadership role. And he did it well. His on-line relationships were every bit as fulfilling as were his real life friendships. His actual identity protected, he was involved in a community which allowed him to flourish in ways real life couldn't offer. At the time, my mantra was "the game is bad dumb stupid and evil and should not be played." Over the years, as I became more acclimated to the ether, my views have changed.

This evening I told TBG that I have had an on-line friend for several months. A Wordscraper friend. We always have at least 2 games going, and though he regularly beats me I'm never humiliated and sometimes I even win a few in a row. I know nothing about him beyond his nice family profile photo, and he has even less information to be gleaned from mine. I don't believe that we've exchanged 12 words in the chat box, and most of those were me saying "ouch". Yet we are certainly Wordscraper friends. There's never a doubt that a rematch will be accepted. I rely on his presence; I'd be disappointed were he to disappear. He's a person who would not could not never would have been in my circle were it not for the community of game players I discovered on Facebook. We are in each other's daily lives, but we are not of each other's lives. We don't know each other ..... or do we?

It's a conundrum.

(Click on the link - there it is again, in case you don't want to scroll up to the first iteration - and let them know what you think. It's a provocative way to spend an hour or so.)

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