Saturday, September 16, 2006

My friend, the Internet...

In a recent post I told you guys a bunch of abstract, idealistic reasons for why I love the Internet. But really, it's more than that -- it's personal.

Let's face it: making friends in real life typically requires planning and big blocks of free time either to go out or to clean up the house and invite people over. And if you have a job and/or kids (or even if you don't) you don't necessarily have oodles of free time to go out and socialize as much as you might like. Then you have the obstacle of finding someone else whose free time matches up with yours, who doesn't live too far away, and hopefully shares some sort of interests with you. Sheesh, it's a wonder people in tho olden days were able to make friends at all...

Today whenever you find yourself with ten minutes or an hour to spare, you can pull up your cup of coffee (or whatever refreshing beverage you enjoy with your friends) and see what all of your virtual amigos are up to on your favorite blogs and forums.

True it's not the same as going out for a drink with your friends for real. But I don't see it as a substitute for real life socializing as much as it is a supplement and a resource. I spend as much time on real-life socializing today as I did before I discovered the Internet. But back then (without all my cyberbuds) I just had that many fewer friends. Plus I've met people in person that I met first online, and my Internet antics have helped me reconnect and stay in touch with family members and old friends.

Now you're probably going "Yeah right, Chanson, fess up -- the real reason you love the Internet is because of all the porn!!"

But in truth I'm not really interested in the porn. What I really like is talking about porn!!! The porn itself is okay -- I can take it or leave it -- but I can discuss porn theory all day long. Seriously. Try me. I think a lot of other feminists are the same way.

Considering how much I love the Internet, you may be wondering why I've essentially given up posting on forums (despite my recent visits to The Foyer and NOMs). It's really just a question of time. Blogging alone occupies more time than I ought to be wasting on the Internet, and if I added regular participation in a forum or two on top of that, I wouldn't have time to do anything else at all.

Now if it ever happens one day that there's nothing left of me but a disembodied brain in a jar hooked up to the Internet, then I'm sure I'll become a regular on several forums in addition to blogging. (Guys, please don't try to pretend that you never plan what you'll do if you're ever reduced to nothing but a disembodied brain in a jar.) But for the moment, my system is to focus on blogging only.

The main reason I ultimately chose blogging over forums is because I feel like it's easier to expand my social network outside of the boundaries of one particular forum.

The way I see it, a forum is a little like a town square (hence the name) where everyone has a megaphone and they're all talking to each other at once. A blog is more like a backyard barbecue where you go because you like the host, and maybe you'll see other people you know there, but maybe not.

The trouble is that it's incredibly time-consuming to live in even two or three towns to the point where you feel like you know the people there and understand what's going on. Then you may have friends you'd like to stay in touch with who aren't interested in moving to your favorite town, but who might be willing to occasionally stop by your backyard barbecue instead. Similarly, since I have interests besides exmormonism (hard to believe, but true!), it's easy for me to swing by non-LDS-related mathematician or other topic blogs on my blog-visiting rounds.

Another advantage to blogs is that they seem somewhat less prone to fighting and feuds than forums are. In blog space, if two people hate each other, they can just avoid visiting each other's blogs. But if they're on the same forum, they can't help but be constantly in each other's faces. A classic example is that unfortunate perpetual feud over on RfM between the religious and non-religious. I don't want to blame any individuals involved -- I really think that it's just a case where they've spent too much time disagreeing in a space where it's very hard to tune each other out. Then it escalates and ends up giving occasional visitors an inaccurate negative impression of both Christian and atheist exmos...

One advantage of a forum over a blog is that you tend to get more back-and-forth discussion among the participants. Plus you get more of a sense of community because you know that everybody there knows everybody else. But that isn't quite enough to tip the scale in favor of forums over blogging, so I probably won't be more than an occasional forum visitor again until I magically get a whole lot more free time (hopefully not through having my brain disembodied, but if it comes down to that, we'll see...).

Of course it looks like a lot of people participate on multiple forums and blogs in the great network of cultural Mormons. Once you participate somewhere in this network, you're likely to run into people you know and who know each other wherever you go. So even if it's only virtual, it's kind of like a community. :D


Sister Mary Lisa said...

C, I really agree with what you said, mainly because I've peeked in on the other forums and they aren't nearly as engaging for me as Outer Blogness. So....I'm glad to see you at my BBQ too once in a while. And here my grass always looks perfect to me compared with my real live lawn. Or whatever you want to call the dead excuse for a lawn that I have this year.

:) L

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Sister Mary Lisa!!!

In fact I was visiting your backyard barbecue just today!!! There's a lot of fun stuff going on over there!!!:D

I'll bet that if you post on those other forums, you'll find people there who already know your blog. ;-)

It's so true that you can have green grass on your blog's backyard BBQ regardless of what your real-life lawn looks like!!! It reminds me of fMh Lisa's fabulous line about how a conference is like blogging except that you have to do your hair. It's so true -- when you're blogging your "virtual hair" is perfect as long as you don't post any photos to the contrary... ;-)

Floating in the Milk said...

That's an interesting view on blogging vs. forums. I've been a long-term participant in forums - just recently I discovered the disaffected mormon ones. Blogging to me always felt like spitting in the wind - what if I started a blog and no one left any comments?

I've gone the extra mile and like to meet the people I "meet" on my forums. It's pretty much a given that if I have a trip I try to arrange a get together with one or more of my "invisipeeps" - a term coined at one of my forums. So far none of my meetings have ended up being with sex-crazed perverts - a perennial concern of my mother-in-law.

The time suck aspect of both endeavors is a problem. I'd never thought of the disembodied brain scenario, but I can see its appeal. I'll have to keep it in mind for my living will.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Floating in the Milk!!!

It's true that when you start a blog there's always a danger that no one will read it. But the established NOM blogs and exmo blogs are interested in building up a community, so if you start a blog and then post comments on related blogs, they'll notice you and link to you.

I like to try to really meet people that I virtually meet through the Internet, but it's always a challenge being as I live in France whereas most of my Internet friends are in North America... I've succeeded in meeting some though!!! :D

Anonymous said...

Fascinating blog. I believe the internet is here to save us all.

Freckle Face Girl said...

I'm with you. I prefer blogging to forums. I think it is a great way to interact with new people and keep up with old friends. It is often hard to find time to connect with old friend by telephone, but blogging can be done when we both get time.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Dusio!!!

I think so too. Did you see my earlier post about the Internet that I linked to above?

Hey Freckle Face Girl!!!

Exactly!!! It's hard to keep in touch with everyone, and a blog helps your friends keep up with your news not only when it's convenient for you but when it's convenient for them. :D

Anonymous said...

I've maintained for over a decade real life friendships that started in internet forums. I know some very cool people because of the web.

That said, I'd also have to agree with you that blogging beats forums, for all the reasons you cite. I've been in some blog-based disputes (including one here) but NOTHING beats the rancor and vitriol and horror of some of the forum arguments that occurred on some Mo forums back in the 90s. It's the biggest reason I shun all such forums today.

Sideon said...

Party at home versus attending all those extra-ciricular parties?

I like how you think, Chanson.

Anytime I think of brains in a jar, I think of "Young Frankenstein" and the mishap with Abby Normal.

Be well!

Anonymous said...

I agree I spend too much time on the Internet and now blogging has become some sort of infection for me.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

It looks hilarious, but I'm having trouble getting the sound... I'm going to have to go see my sys admin about this...

Hey Holly!!!

I agree completely. There were really ugly feuds on exmo-social even though IMHO the regulars were cool in general.

My impression is that the main problem was that people are accustomed to being able to address their friends without having their messages broadcast to the entire community, and they had trouble writing messages tailored to the general audience.

Since all blogs on the Internet are potentially part of the same social circle, you don't have this same situation where socializing with your friends means being confined in close contact with people you dislike.

Hey Sideon!!!

I hope my brain-in-a-jar won't be one of the abbey-normal ones!!! ;-)

Hey AZ Expositor!!!

It's terrible isn't it??

I wish that either I weren't so hooked on it or I didn't have other responsibilities... ;-)

La said...

Thanks for typing out in public things that I think we all have wondered or thought about in our heads. :)

I, for one, am certainly thrilled you choose to blog!! Real life, shmreal life...

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks La!!!

Reality universe is overrated, isn't it? ;-)

Christopher Smith said...

I've definitely contemplated being a disembodied brain in a jar.

As for blogs vs. forums, I agree with you that the ethos of blogs is generally better, and it's kind of cool to be the host of your own backyard barbecue, but I find that not much real conversation happens over at my barbecue. If I really want to actually talk about something, I find I have to take it to the boards.

Besides, I've been a board guy for a while now, and I'm afraid it's a bit like heroin...

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Chris!!!

I was a board gal for more than a year -- exmo-social is where I became an internet addict -- but I didn't make the transition to totally obsessed until I switched to blogging. ;^)

Regarding discussion, it's true that individual personal blogs don't usually get that much back-and-forth discussion. Yet, interestingly, you see discussions getting spread over multiple blogs as one person writes an interesting piece and other bloggers write related pieces with their own ideas and link back to the first.

Christopher Smith said...

Though I've never been a Mormon myself, it was the apologist boards like whyprophets and MADB that got me addicted. I just like a good fight, I guess. :)