There seems to be a few things that are still taboo to do online. There are three that come directly to mind. First, would be admitting you met your loved one online. Second, to admit that most of your time with your friends is online. Third, that you are going to school in an online program. Unfortunately all of these things apply to me!
I have to admit, that though I did meet my now husband (newly weds as of March 17th of this year) in person in passing at a party just over 5 years ago, it was almost a year later that we started talking and really got to know each other online. I spent more time with him online in the first 3 weeks of our friendship than I did with him in person. Due to my hectic life of being a wife, mother (step), full time student, who works full time I actually spend a lot of time with my friends online (computer or phone). This is either via chatting, or through our blogs, or through gaming in World of Warcraft. As far as school goes, I am always amazed how often I feel I have to justify my being in an online program. I have to specify it is an academic rather than technical program, and I have to state it is for my masters, and lastly I have to mention it is at a respectable college who just happens to be one of the leading traditional colleges in online education.
For some reason all of these things seem to be too personal or too important to be handled in an online environment, thus, making anything that happens online second best to things that take place in a face-to-face environment. However, people seem to enjoy the fact that they can do their banking online, or work from home via a vpn connection, or even keep up with far away family members via photos and video shared online. I find it very interesting that there is a cultural line drawn between these things.
I believe people feel this way because they see the ‘online’ part of it and mark it as only being superficial or without any depth. I suppose if I elaborated to show how I meld my online and offline world this would some how make it better. In my world I bring face-to-face and online together as often as I can. Obviously this worked out for my relationship as we are now married (though due to our schedules we do carry out a lot of our daily conversations online either via text messaging or through messengers). I invite my entire local friends list out with me via my livejournal at least once a month. This usually results in 10-20 people meeting and eating Tex-Mex together at our favorite restaurant. I even invited my Canadian guild leader in WoW to my wedding (she couldn’t make it due us moving up our date and her still being pregnant – but she would of if she could have and had planned to for our original date that was 6 months later) and I talk to guild members via phone and text messaging often. Though I am in an online academic program, I live less than 20 miles away from campus (that’s very close in Texas!) and I participate in as many social gatherings as I can. I will even supplement my online curriculum with electives I take on campus there (it is my alma matter for my undergrad as well).
I am curious to see how attitudes change as a generation who has never known a time without internet access begins to make a single world out of the two most try to keep separate. For me there really is no separation. Why make a distinction? What purpose does that serve? I see the value in f2f and in online relationships – even those that never cross the line from one to the other. In the end, I figure if I can trust my bank to handle my money online and my work trusts me to work online then I should be able to marry the man of my dreams I got to know online and trust my university to handle my education there as well.
I am eagerly awaiting the time when the rest of the world catches up with me.
ETA: (This is a posting I did tonight on my Thought and Praxis -aka theory- class discussion boards on postmodernism anthropology. I added it here because I believe it shares some of the reasons why I view things the way I do.)
For me, I am both a fan of philosophy and Nietzsche as well as a fan of questioning everything including my own reality (a bit of solipsism there) so Postmodernism works for me in that light. It’s strength is that it allows everything to be questioned, even those highest of ideals that seem unquestionable (as Nietzsche did with Religion for example).
However, a weakness for me is that in order to be a scientist, while you should have a healthy curiosity, there should be something in yourself to which you question things against. Something you hold to in order to form the foundation of your discovery and point of view. Yes, this makes it subjective, but I feel you can compare objective positions to your own subjectivity in order to come to conclusion that you then share as objectively as possible with the rest of the world. The point of doing this is to allow other people to test these conclusions against their own thus allowing us to question ourselves against ourselves. HOLY BATMAN are we getting circular here! Hopefully you follow, if not just consider me delirious after the first two days at my new job.
Now, Nietzsche would say “Morality is the herd in the individual”, however, I think that culture would fail if there wasn’t some sort of standard of morality people adhered too. Some sort of reality they all subscribed to in order to make it all work. A cultural foundation upon which people are able to question the world around them (ethnocentric perhaps). This reality has to exist both partially inside and outside of them in order for all of them to live and work together. This is where the conflict within myself begins and the weaknesses in postmodernism rear their ugly head for me. As an anthropologist being someone who believes in culture and sees that there are certain glues that hold cultures together, I see the purpose of things like morality, collective/objective realities. However, I understand for myself that this is all within my own subjective context.
Alas, we come back to dualism or what I like to think of as hybridity. The melding of two systems to make my own. I must be in this mode of thought tonight, as this duality was what my cyber-anthro blog post was about as well.