Internet—forever but not permanent

Click image to view The Other Coast Feb 18, 2009

Click image to view The Other Coast February 18, 2009

When I saw this comic strip in the paper this morning, I had to laugh. So much of today’s communications media: phone, text/SMS/MMS, email, TV, online publishing—are only available as long as there is enough storage to keep them. The Way-Back Machine on the Internet Archive helped me recover my old Tablet PC Blogs posts in a jam, but if all the hard drives in the universe were full, what would have happened then?

In contrast to my post about what happens on the Internet living forever, I present the alternative view. My friend Wayne Radford, the self-proclaimed “King of Poco”, put this bug in my ear over lunch one rainy afternoon. The short version is that our online publishing efforts, though wide reaching, are only temporal.

Way back in the dawn of time the human race shared stories of their heritage through the spoken word. In each family or tribe was a storyteller who entertained, provoked thought, and presented their traditions and history to the current generation. Before that storyteller died, he passed the mantle to the next in line, to carry on the tradition.

In our electronics-crazed age, we are disconnected from one another. We listen to our personal stereos. We play portable one-person video games. We share a sense of community, but that largely occurs online. Which reminds me of another great cartoon I saw this week.

Click to view Zits for February 15, 2009

Click image to view Zits for February 15, 2009

The sad fact is that Social Media encourages online activity that makes us feel like we’re connecting with others. In reality we are still playing by ourselves in a large room with several others. When our kids were in preschool we arranged play dates so they could “get to know other kids”. It was an interesting phenomenon that even though they were in the same room, each of them enjoyed the experience of playing with a different set of toys—they rarely interacted, or played the same game together.

It soon became apparent that we arranged those play dates for other reasons besides our children’s social development; we arranged these dates for us to socialize with other parents. This became clear to me when I compared my wife’s impressions of the play dates where the parents of the children stayed to chat, with the ones where the parents dropped their kids off and left to run errands. My wife always felt a greater sense of connection when given the opportunity to socialize with other adults. Go figure.

Back to my original point. I wrote this blog entry and published it for the world at large to read. Well, actually, only the interested three or four of you will take the time to read this post. While my work makes me a published author for however long the post is kept on the server, when the lights go out, it’s over.

This is a different experience than that of a printed book, which has the opportunity to live for on centuries (or not!) on a library bookshelf. Even then, the written word is still temporary. What matters most are the real-life connections we make with each other, right now. It’s easy to hide behind a pseudonym or a web site façade, an instant messaging nick or an avatar. It’s far more difficult, and scary, to present ourselves as we really are.

I’ve had the great pleasure of joining various meetup groups, technology user groups, and other business/social networking groups that meet face to face. It’s fascinating to watch the dynamic within each group. There are those who use these occasions to promote their services, but still more who want to meet the real “you” behind the online “you”.

Which leads me to my next point: I’ve been invited to speak at Northern Voice on February 20, 2009 about “Putting Your Blog to Work”. I’ve been keeping this pretty quiet, as I’ve been too busy to even think about my presentation. Plus, it’s my first time ever going to this conference, and I am not sure quite what to make of the whole thing.

One thing is certain: Face-to-face connection is what is required to create true permanence in the hearts and minds of others. I intend to share the real “me” behind the online “me”, and meet and get to know the real “you” behind your online “you”.

I hope to see you at Northern Voice. Let’s put the “Social” into “Social Media”.


5 Responses to “Internet—forever but not permanent”

  1. James Strocel Says:

    This makes me think of the way the convention industry has exploded over the past ten years. The rise of social media in the same time frame can be no coincidence. The proper way to use social media is to meet people face-to-face in increasingly extravagant ways.

  2. Tony Chung Says:

    @James: you are absolutely right about the convention industry. The fact I’m even speaking at one tomorrow is indicative of the sign of the times!

  3. Skill Gaming Says:

    Is there a way to become a content writer for the site?

  4. Tony Chung Says:

    @Skill Gaming: Sure… you can become a content writer for our site if … you’re ME! 😉

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