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Jason Oberholtzer is the cofounder and a curator of the popular iLoveCharts tumblr, and the co-author of I Love Charts: The Book, in stores online and near you on May 1. What follows is an excerpt from the book.
As the Internet becomes a larger part of our social, cultural and vocational lives, we are forced to make choices about the extent to which we are willing to embrace the medium and its native relationships and emotions.
There is often a temptation (from which I am not immune) to discredit the authenticity of an experience on the Internet, but to do so is a waste of time. That is not to say that understanding the cause of an emotion or the foundation of an experience is not valuable (there are few more worthwhile pursuits in my neurotic opinion), but it is to say that discrediting an emotion’s existence because of its source is just plain dumb.
People fall in love on the Internet. People fight on the Internet. People create communities more meaningful than the communities they can interact with physically.
That is all old news.
What is newer news is the way in which people are allowing their relationships online to spill offline, and vice versa. Relationships of every nature, from romantic to casual, are being enriched by the combination of online and offline personas. But even this news is not that new.
What may be new is the increasing number of people, myself included, who see no difference between online and offline life. There is no point at which one ends and the other begins. Maybe I am just an Internet person and this is just what happens when you turn twenty-five and settle into your personality. Maybe none of this is remarkable, but it seems like more is going on.
The Internet is the only place to which I feel truly nationalistic and is the environment in which I feel most at home. You know what is odd about that? Mostly that it is no longer odd. There are now young adults who have had a significant portion of their foundational life experiences online. And from all generations, people spend more time on their computers than ever before; some spend more time on them than off them, especially if you include tablets and smartphones. When the Internet was more of a diversion, or a tool for the few, it made more sense to deride it as “fake life,” but now it encompasses too much for that classification to stick. So why not treat the Internet as an equal part of your life? Whether or not you consider your involvement with the Internet to be as extreme as mine, it affects you every single day. Why not treat it with the respect it deserves?
Like it or not, the majority of modern relationships involve the Internet. We use the Internet for meeting, courting, networking, catching up, stalking, or broadcasting shared experiences. Your very framework of social etiquette has adapted to accommodate the Internet. The volume of minute interpersonal decisions you make every day (usually subconsciously) has expanded.
Matters of email and Twitter etiquette can now be codified. They make or break relationships. I’m sure there are people who find that ridiculous, but deal with it! Acting holier-than-thou on matters of Internet etiquette is little more than a disguise for laziness or fear. Who cares where your social life plays out? Ultimately it’s all just playing out in your head anyway, so why scoff at how it gets there?
Pay attention and put some care into your online correspondences. Speaking the lingo isn’t about embracing tech-speak, it’s about communicating with people. Just because you are communicating with somebody via the Internet doesn’t mean you should care less about how it turns out.
So I guess what I am saying is have some pride in your Internet persona; it is just as real as your offline persona. You don’t have to go as far as I have and discard all boundaries in the search for some true cross-platform cyborg self, but you shouldn’t be afraid to invest yourself online. Treat the Internet like a real space and you will be rewarded … by turning into a mildly agoraphobic recluse like me.
Congratulations to the two winners of a free copy of I Love Charts: The Book?: Mike Silverberg Wirth and Tara Sharum. Please send your contact information (name, if those are not your real names, and postal address) to contact [at] visual.ly and include I Love Charts giveaway in the subject line so we don’t miss you!