Some thoughts on LiveJournal and such

Things Franklin Hates #117:

Writing a post in response to someone else’s comment, then having the post bounce because that person’s journal accepts posts only from friends (and the owner has at some point removed him from her friends list without him noticing, because he’s not very detail-oriented that way).

Some time ago, lordfuckbeast and I ran an interview with William Gibson, in which he compared the formation of online communities in cyberspace (a term he coined, by the way) with the development of the world’s first cities and the change in human society from agrarian to urban.

A bit over the top, I thought, but now I’m not so convinced he isn’t right.

kellyv has on many occasions expressed doubts about the depth of one of my romantic relationships, on the grounds that I first met her online, and most of our contact was online, so I couldn’t really have known her all that well.

Had I never experienced that kind of connection, I would no doubt be skeptical myself. But the fact is, online communication can be a remarkably intimate thing. It is, in its way, even more intimate than the telephone–because the apparent anonymity, the very lack of the immediacy of a verbal or face-to-face conversation, can itself facilitate lowering one’s defenses to this other person. After all, it’s only text on a screen, right?

The thrust of Gibson’s argument is that, throughout human history, every society that has ever existed has been predicated on geography…until now. Before the Information Age, you belonged to the society in the place where you live. Now, for the first time in history, societies can form without regard to geography or physical location at all.

But it’s a mistake to think that those societies are “less real” than the geographical kind. They take on a life of their own, just as traditional societies do; they grow and change over time, they form bonds as strong and as intimate as those you see in more conventional societies.

I still prefer the physical ones to the kind that exist in cyberspace. Maybe I’m a traditionalist; I do like to get to know my friends in person, and I prefer physical touch to its more ephemeral online counterpart. (Though that may change one day…)

Anyway, I was amused to see that I had a user on my friends list when I first joined the LiveJournal community, whos eventually deleted her journal; and now it’s been long enough that someone else, entirely unrelated, has begun a new journal with the same name. Does that make me a grizzled elder of the community? (Or does it just mean that I neglect to update my friends list for so long that everything old is new again?)