So. Yesterday I tackled the topic of the stereotype of gamers having no life.
I ended that post with a question. Is social interaction through the internet of less value than other forms. This is quite a big question. Many people have given many valid opinions on the question. It's not quite as clear or easy as other topics such as "are games art?" seem to be to me. That's because it's a really hard question to ask. "Is the internet valid social interaction?"
What is social interaction? In yesterdays post I said that "having a life" was just having lots of social interaction, but really, what does that mean? Quite simply it is interaction between people. From the earliest of times, people have had to interact just to get by. As society has progressed, people have interacted in various other ways.
These ways have gotten to a point more and more technological over the years. Speaking became letters, letters became telegrams, telegrams became phone calls, and now, phone calls have become a whole plethora of internet related means of socialization. Perhaps that's why the internet falls into some skepticism? There are so many means of communicating over the internet, how can they all be as valid as speaking face to face?
Ah, but therein lies the faulty logic. People always go back to face to face interaction as being the "true" form of socialization. And why shouldn't they? Being next to someone and speaking to them face to face introduces a near infinite number of other variables to them interaction. Facial tics, tones, the way a person carries themselves, these can all tell you something about the other person that won't come across in a letter, phone call, or e-mail.
But I think the question we need to ask ourselves is really, "why isn't the internet a valid form of social interaction?" Phone calls have been considered a valid form of social interaction forever, and yet if I talk to someone through a vent server on the internet, suddenly people tell me that "those aren't REAL people."
I'm sorry, but how does talking to someone over the internet as opposed to over a telephone line suddenly make that person less real? That's just stupid.
Well I'll tell you where this comes from. A basic fear of the unknown. The internet is new, and you know what? It's a great way to meet people with similar interests. But it's new. And people don't understand the new. Therefore it's unknown, and scary. Everyone is convinced that absolutely everyone on the internet is some crazy stalker, murderer, or rapist. Or all 3.
Now, don't get me wrong, those people absolutely do exist on the internet. And it's very important to be careful who you give information about yourself to. You should be careful. But there are also great, harmless, fun people on the internet. And you know what? You're cheating yourself if you have an irrational fear of every single person on the internet. Not every guy on the internet is The Slender Man people.
Google it if you dare, people.
Anyways, that's why the internet is frowned on as a "real" social interaction. Because you're not talking to "real" people. You're talking to fake usernames. It's easy for a lot of people to forget that there are "real" people behind those usernames.
Well people, I hate to tell you, but that's stupid. People on the internet are every bit as much real as people on the phone.
So the big question, is internet interaction equal to other forms?
In my opinion, yes. It is. It is different, but equal. Chatting on the internet is just as valid as texting. E-mail is just a faster form of writing letters, and yes, voice chat is just as valid as talking on the phone.
I suspect eventually people will realize this, and hopefully, stop treating it like a lesser form of interaction. But at this point, one can only wait until then.