The Internet and Communication: Socializing from the Comfort of a Laptop

by eternal on December 28, 2008

Yes, I’m aware that she isn’t using a laptop, and no, I don’t know who she is.

A mere day after Christmas, Owen wrote something on what he saw as a damaged social life – how the internet changes the way we interact with people, and how our lives can change as a result of it. This, from what I’ve experienced, can be very true; why bother forcing yourself to talk about something you find uninteresting when all of your fellow bloggers and anime fans are waiting for you on Twitter and IRC? Why bother scouring your school for the most diligent fans when you’re already connected to some of leaders of the community? Those are two of the many questions that I’ve been asking myself recently, and I believe that Owen covered the topic in much detail; there’s little more that I can say to back up his point.

However, I don’t think we agree on everything, either. The internet, as I see it, is not a bad thing, and it’s certainly not something we should distrust or discredit. My thoughts on the matter are rather scattered and not too distinct, but while I can agree that common interests are treated more as a given for those of us who are active on the internet, I don’t think I can bring myself to look down on the method of communication, either.

If you haven’t read the original post yet, the general gist of it is that having experienced conversation – sometimes lengthy conversation at that – with our peers that share our interests, it becomes increasingly harder to talk to people that we have nothing in common with. As I’ve noticed myself, and as all of you have probably noticed as well, this is more or less true: don’t you find it easier to talk about the latest episode of ef than that fact that it is/isn’t snowing outside? And even if it isn’t easier, don’t you find it more interesting?

This topic can be tested quite easily in the scenario of a family gathering, such as the ones that people often plan around Christmas (and I’m guessing that was what spawned this entire train of thought). Personally, I can honestly tell you that I have very little to talk to my family about, mainly because our interests – and even personalities, much of the time – are quite different. When you add the age gap to that, conversations generally end up at the dreaded “‘How’s school?’ ‘Good'” stage, which is pretty much as unpleasant as talking about the weather. (If it’s snowing out, do we really need to debate it? Do either of us have anything to gain from said debate?)

For some reason, though, things like that never bothered me. Even if I have very little in common with my family members, even if my interactions at school are limited to the two or three people I know that are actually capable of keeping up a conversation involving something that interests both parties without drifting off into mainstream shounen and Gaia and whatever else nerdy teenagers are stereotypically interested in – even if my social interactions in real life aren’t the greatest, I can’t bring myself to worry.

And maybe that’s because I have the internet.

One point I believe I should raise is the age gap that we have within the anime blogosphere. From the 14 (now 15, actually) year old Kairu to the late twenties/early thirties ghostlightning, the ‘sphere contains writers and readers of all walks of life, and I think we can all agree that a person’s age is a huge factor in determining who they associate with and how they do it. An adult working in business would have more experience with communicating with others than a junior high student, right? A person who can drive will be able to travel around farther than a person limited by public transit, and a person with a decent job could buy a plane ticket and travel even farther. As we grow, our lives change with us, and the way we look at the world – as well as the way we communicate with others – develops naturally. Ultimately, all of us bloggers are human beings, and when we talk about anime, it’s always through the eyes of a person, and each of us has lived through different experiences. It’s easy to look at us as a collective pile of usernames, each with the same lifestyles and personalities, but the reality of the matter is the exact opposite.

So at the end of the day, just what am I trying to prove? Nothing, really. A matter such as this one would probably take a team of sociologists to dissect, and I’ve never been one to pretend to know more than I actually do. However, I truly do think that there’s something to be said about communication through the internet. As I’ve established in this post, my social life is far from perfect, and many times I find myself more curious about what lelangir will write for his next EPIC essay than what movie my friends went to see. I suppose I’m naturally antisocial in a way, but I tend to look at it from the opposite perspective, being that I can talk when I have something to talk about – and if I have nothing to talk about, or no one to talk to, then I’ll stay silent.

For a person like me – and I’m sure there are many others like me out there as well – socializing through the internet isn’t something to frown upon. And given my optimism (I’m the kind of person that pretends to be cynical but clings on to some shapeless form of hope anyhow), I haven’t started fearing for my future yet: the older you get, the more people you meet, and the higher the chances become of some of those people being compatible with you. When that time comes, I’m sure I’ll be able to dig up what I remember of RL socializing, and the barrier of “small talk” can be quickly broken by two people that have a natural affinity for one another.

And in the mean time, I’m not afraid to say that I’m logged out of MSN where all of my classmates are and that I’ve got my eye on TwitterFox that keeps popping up in the bottom-right corner of my screen. The loss of the ability to talk to people in real life can be a scary thing, and it’s easy to classify it as the beginning of hikikomori-dom or something equally unpleasant, but as Martin said in the comments of the original post, a person active in online communication might only be doing it because they’re unable to communicate in real for various other reasons. I carelessly worded my own comment on the post, but in retrospect, I believe that Martin was right: the internet might not be what causes a declining social life, but rather quite the opposite. Some people live in a place or in a specific scenario in which it’s difficult to meet other people that you’re compatible with, and if that’s the case, then of course the person will be more active online.

I know I’m liable to be flamed for this, but from where I am now, I can’t help but see the internet as more of a blessing than a curse. As countless IRL-meetups around the world have proven, usernames on the internet are human beings in the real world, and communicating through the web should be no different than talking to an old friend on the phone. Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, and I mean that in the least religious way possible, but it’s a bit too pessimistic in my eyes to blame the net for holding back your social life. After all, it’s through the internet that many of us first met, and as I’m sure the blogosphere vets can tell you, there’s nothing wrong with making a few extra friends, even if those friends are on the other side of the globe.


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

lolikitsune December 28, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Good closing paragraph. I agree with it, I think. I’d wanted to weigh in on Owen’s post, but couldn’t think of anything to say that hadn’t been said or wasn’t pitifully short—I felt out of place in the sea of tl;dr comments :P

lolikitsunes last blog post..first impressions: Mariaholic & Unlimited Poetic Justice Works


Nazarielle December 28, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I’m not sure I can really add much to what you said, but I felt the need to comment, because you put into words exactly the way I feel. Particularly this:

“I suppose I’m naturally antisocial in a way, but I tend to look at it from the opposite perspective, being that I can talk when I have something to talk about – and if I have nothing to talk about, or no one to talk to, then I’ll stay silent.”

I hate making small talk, and honestly, I’m bad at bluffing or pretending I care, so rather than try and fail at pretending to care, I tend to just stay away from topics I don’t care about, which leaves me with very little to talk about. Maybe that means I fail at communication or I need to broaden my interests or something. But I’d rather just stay silent than try to pretend I care and fail.

Also, you could say the same thing might happen even if you’re talking with a bunch of close friends in real life who share your interests. If you talk with them and have a lengthy discussion about some topic (could be anything), and you do this on a normal basis, you might find it hard to have something to talk about to someone you’ve just met, or an old relative or something. It could even happen because of your job and talking with your colleagues. You get used to a certain type of conversation, and when you’re forced to go back to conversing with someone you’ve not talked to in a long time (or at all), it’s tough.

That said, I still have a hard time talking to anyone I’ve just met, because I tend to be a very extreme opposite of the ‘act first, think later’ type of person. I think so much about my response that I think I tend to leave people wondering if I’m just spacing out or something. That or I try to rush my thought process and trip over myself :p

Nazarielles last blog post..Anime Catch up~


Panther December 28, 2008 at 11:17 pm

There are two sides to the same coin. Then again, I read widely, and can talk with people on a huge variety of topics, thus having a slightly easier time despite my lack of social skills in communication. Of course, where the family is concerned, I do have problems too.

And the Internet is indeed something great for me, I could easily say it has been more of a blessing than a curse for me. It might be different for others, but ultimately the Internet is a tool, and it remains to each of us how we use it that determines if it is going to be a blessing or a curse for each one of us individually.

Panthers last blog post..10 to The Power of 5


M12 December 29, 2008 at 7:11 am

A very interesting article. I reckon there’s nothing to worry about. As you grow up, socializing just becomes easier and easier. I didn’t speak a lot back in high school. Look at me now – can’t shut up. Sure, you can be an anime “geek”, but you can still be “cool”!

Hey, wait until you see the next VJutsu video. That’s socializing right there. You’ll see! It’s the same thing with the audio episodes we’ve been recording. Hopefully you’ve heard them. Sure, it’s just Skype. But hey, at least it’s more than just typing, right? That’s what VJutsu aims to do. Feel free to come chat with us sometime!

M12s last blog post..Bootleg Busters – Coming soon


GNdynames December 29, 2008 at 3:25 pm

I myself lack a real social life, those who talked to me on msn naturally knows that I have trouble continuing a conversation even on the web. I suppose the main thing between MSN and something more real is that, well, that’s just it. No one knows how the other person is feeling behind the screen, and one might not be honest him/herself. Honestly, when was the last time anyone actually laughed out loud when they wrote LOL.

However, as far as commuting goes, internet is at least more convenient. I’m not just talking between classmates. I myself use MSN to talk to my parents when I’m at university, which is a three hour drive from my house. In that case I’d rather not be buying phone cards every other week for the same purpose.

Well, ultimately it does come down to oneself. When not in the library, I’d enjoy a nice chat with someone anyday. Granted, I could write up an essay on someting like how nerutransmitters work over msn in a few minutes and that’d probably be more than enough info for when someone inquires. But hey, it does develop social skills that I dare say most of what we call otakus dearly lack.


M12 December 29, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Hm, I’m not sure if most otakus have poor social skills. I reckon many teenage otakus might struggle with this. You can blame it on the people around them. In high school, I struggled to admit I’m into anime. After all, people might think you’re not “cool”. As a result, you might become less social. Especially if you have no other hobbies.

I hung out with three other anime fans the other day. We talked for hours, so yeah :).

M12s last blog post..Bootleg Busters – Coming soon


ghostlightning December 29, 2008 at 6:40 pm

I’m turning 32 in less than 3 weeks. I think Danny Choo is older.

Just 2 days ago I attended a family reunion. Migration and expatriation decimated our numbers. So of the 4 cousins left here in the Philippines, 2 of them are my brothers orz.

My cousin, however is an otaku (yay) so I ended up talking to him for the most part. However,

>>Why bother scouring your school for the most diligent fans when you’re already connected to some of leaders of the community?

My conversation with my cousin merely revolved on identifying what we’re currently watching, and recommending shows to each other. Online I could have more substantial conversations with really interesting people.

Over the course of the lunch (about 90 minutes), I probably checked twitter at least thrice from my mobile phone.

Then again, I think that this interface with the off-line world will provide interesting material for online interactions. At some point, all of us in the community will be reading a lot of the same things, the news will be less exciting to talk about because of the saturation rate (ever increasing). Everyone can read each other’s tweets, etc. Life will provide I think.


Blowfish December 29, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Its always about HOW we use the new medial ways that we are offered.It can end in disaster or in something wonderful.It really depends on how you are and what you are searching for.

Im not the person with the greatest social skills either.Is there really a need for meaningless smalltalk or faking empathy? In my opinion there is no need for that.If someone cant feel good with a vast number of “friends” im alright with that.Whatever floats your boat.I prefer to know that i can count on those few people i care about and that i really know them.That also means that hurtful words must be sometimes spoken.
That makes me look like a weird, cold person for bystanders but if those judge by first looks that much i dont feel the urge to know them better

I must also mention Panthers effort for closing the gap between bloggers around the globe with TeamBlue.He proactively encourages the members to communicate and know them better.

I think i strayed a bit away from the maintopic ^^

Blowfishs last blog post..What!?! (NSFW)


ETERNAL December 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

@ lolikitsune: I get that feeling all the time whenever I read those huge posts with almost equally huge comments…that’s why I rarely comment on Super Fani ^^;

@ Nazarielle: That’s a good point you make, actually. Something similar happened to me in elementary school, where all of my friends were into video games and anime and all that, and I never really needed to talk to anyone else. Then when you get tossed into a group project with people who talk about sports and rap music, it’s hard to get your thoughts together and actually talk to them. It’s just that this scenario feels worse to people because we’re effectively talking to a bunch of usernames.

@ Panther: Indeed, saying that the internet is bad is like saying that guns or robots are bad (stupid example, I know). A tool is a tool either way, and it’s up to you to decide whether you want to spend your life lurking on /b/ or communicating with your peers on a form of media that you enjoy.

@ M12: I’m definitely counting on that, and I’m hoping you’re right. I doubt I could have handled something like blogging a few years ago, what with the potential for both anonymous praise and harsh criticism, but I’m fine with it now, and I hope that the same will happen as I grow older.

@ GNdynames: I also believe that socializing online can wind up helping your in real life, especially when you’re a naturally quiet person; it’s a good way to get to “talk” to people without having all of the pressures of a real-life conversation. Yamazaki should have just downloaded MSN for Sato instead of turning him into a lolicon. …Then again, a lot of solutions would have been better than that >_>

@ M12 (again): Finally, someone who acknowledges that age makes a difference! The ‘sphere is comprised mainly of university students, whom, from what I’ve seen, don’t have as many pressures when it comes to socializing. High school really can becomes difficult, especially when hardly anyone shares your hobbies. When you’re an adult, I hope and assume that you can meet like-minded people and talk about what you want without having to worry about the cluster of basketball players in front of the school or the cluster of anime club members watching Inuyasha in the basement.

@ ghostlightning: Actually, that’s not a bad idea. A couple of the conversations I had IRL within the last month or so actually did give me ideas for new posts that I probably wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. And with the same people reading the same thoughts over and over again, it’s only a matter of time before we’re unable to think of anything new by ourselves.

@ Blowfish: Don’t worry, it’s all relevant anyhow :P
Like Panther said, technology can be as much of a blessing as a curse, and it really is up to how you choose to use it. Also, I recall my parents mentioning something to me a few years ago about how it’s good to have a few close friends rather than a class full of acquaintances, and while I could hardly understand it at the time, it’s starting to make a lot more sense now. Some people need to know everyone, and that’s fine, but there’s nothing wrong with having only a couple good friends either. Like I said, I hardly talk to anyone at school, but the people I do talk to always provide interesting conversations, sometimes even entering the topic of anime and giving me ideas for posts!


usagijen January 2, 2009 at 3:11 am

I can totally relate with you on your conversations with your relatives, and gawd it feels so awkward not being able to sustain much of a conversation with them, heh. It’s always good to have some jokes or ‘latest news buzz’ with you in these situations, the perfect ice breaker.

Anyways, it’s but normal for people to seek ‘companions’, and in the case of otakus, one of the easiest ways to meet fellow fans is through the interwebz. Not to say that the internet directly affects how you communicate IRL, it just provides you with some sort of shortcut to socializing with people having the same interests as yours. In the end, just like our anime hobby, socializing on the internet is but one tiny portion of our lives, and we’d have to face Real Life people whether we like it or not. Now I don’t know if it’s got anything to do with the people I talk to online, but I found it rewarding to my RL conversations in general.

usagijens last blog post..2008/2009 Winter Anime Menu


M12 January 3, 2009 at 8:05 am

This is a very interesting topic. Yeah, I’d say age makes a difference. In my office, I’m the only “otaku”. My workmates know I’m a nerd, but they don’t mock me for it. Thinking back, how stupid was I/we to have teased people for having certain hobbies? The older you get, the less you worry about what others think. So yeah, fun times ahead :D.

M12s last blog post..V-ko @ K – Ebullient Future


Caitlin January 13, 2009 at 7:55 am

This is an excellent post and I found it quite interesting. For me, the internet has definitely been a blessing more than a curse. I agree that age makes a difference but part of that is attitude, or projected attitude. In a literary community I used to be part of, people often stayed away from newbies who wrote in l33t and had an aggressive manner. However, if someone of the same age as the aforementioned came in with readable posts and a friendly demeanor, no one cared about the age. Just like real life, it is, to some extent, how you present yourself. The internet just makes it easier because the first judgment, physical appearance, is gone.


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