Communicating You (Part Five)
Cyber communities foster an environment where false images are constantly interacting with other false images. For example, it is no longer commonplace for friends to actively hang out together after school. Increasingly prevalent is the practice of leaving campus, getting online and logging in to favorite Internet milieus and finding friends (as if they were not with them minutes ago). Within these interactions with other people, communication is not occurring, but rather information is being exchanged. Quick notes, personal blogs, and instant messaging prevail as dominant forms of interaction. Not to mention that while one hand is emailing a friend online, the other is text messaging another person on their cell phone (another form of communication decay in and of itself). Over and over people retreat the comfortable escape of information exchange with no intention of connection.
The comfort level of information exchange is not restricted to casual interactions. Often in these Internet communities users find it very easy to confront each other and handle problems. Aggression, hardship, and confrontation are much easier to divulge while one sits at home, in their room, online. Constantly users post hateful and poisonous pontifications on their sites, replacing the responsibility of face-to-face interaction and reconciliation. Networks are used as an escape and release that is corroding communication to the eventual point of inability. Who would want to sit down with a broken friendship when it can be “handled” online? Who would want to end a dating relationship in person when sending an online note will suffice? The answer is fewer and fewer people. The less real communication is practice the more difficult it becomes. Users prefer the fantastical arenas of discourse where false images are free and superficial dialogue is unthreatened.
If escaping communication alleviates stress, pain, awkwardness, or tears, then that road becomes more traveled. Escapism is not a new practice. However cyber communities are new arenas in which to escape. Stories continue to surface of broken relationships and marriages due to the investment in Internet life. Husbands and wives come home from unfulfilling days at work and retreat to the computer room to update profiles, Avitars (digital characters that are created by users to interact with online communities), and image. All the while spouses—real, present, alive people—are ignored because it is much more difficult to interact with real space and time. The habit of traveling down the road of avoidance is where communication is found most feeble. Aliveness and identity must be discovered or rediscover in this growing world of numbness and fantasy.