I have been using a computer since 1995. If my I.T. GCSE, on an Acorn, counts then make that 1993.
Like all computer users I have a love/hate relationship with my computer. (I love it, it hates me.) As you’ll know yourself, computers are great when they’re working. When they’re not, they’re little more than a glorified desk warmer.
In particular I am an internet addict. Ever since I was introduced to email at university, which lead me on to becoming a member of a single messageboard, I was hooked. I now spend the majority of my leisure time online. Again, this is great when working normally. A pain in the arse when not.
Something I hear people say is that spending time online is a waste of time. I dispute this.
Granted, perhaps it is time that could be better spent building a shed or saving the universe, but my point is this: how is being online for an hour any different to spending an hour reading or listening to music? These hobbies are accepted by society as being worthwhile, or perhaps even educational and good for the soul. The jury is out as to which category watching TV or a film falls into (both of which I tend to do using my computer, one way or another).
But really, being online can be just as educational, and just as good for the soul as any of those things. I especially defend social networking sites. My site of choice being Facebook.
Even I, up here on my soapbox, can see that a lot of what goes on over at Facebook and elsewhere is pure time-wasting. Games and applications eat time like the animals in them eat the food you provide for them. However, there is also a lot of social interaction that goes on, as is the idea, either through said games, or via the more traditional method of messages and chat. And not to mention the easy access to photos and news of new family members, marriage announcements and the like which might otherwise pass us by.
It is this that keeps people coming back to these sites. The games are merely a way to fill the gaps between the interaction.
I’ve made several online friends over the years – some I’m still in touch with, others have drifted away to pastures new, as have I. The internet is transient – not much of it lasts forever – and perhaps it is this that some poeple find strange about it. But isn’t life the same? People we know in our “real” lives are just as likely to move away. “Real” relationships are just as likely to begin or end in the blink of an eye.
I’ve also been able to reconnect with people I assumed I’d never hear from again – school friends who’d moved away, or who I’d moved away from, are now back in touch. We may not speak everyday, but we’re on the radar and we can easily chat and catch up on the news.
It is this that really makes me love the internet. It’s something you just don’t get from sitting in a chair turning page after page of a Jane Austen novel, or by staring into space while music blasts from nearby speakers. (Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading and listening to music too.)
Perhaps it is a generation thing. Maybe in 10 years time the stigma will have gone, and we internet geeks can tippety-tap on our keys all day and night without anyone judging us and muttering about “getting out more”.
I can but hope.