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Oldie, 10/2/08: The Quiet Type

Note:  I originally posted this on my old blog, which I'm in the process of shutting down. I'll be copying and reposting some of my "greatest hits" from 2008-2010.

"Dear Prudence" in Slate Magazine published a letter from a mother who was appalled by the huge trend of texting among teenagers. She said:

What I find amazing is how little actual real-voice conversation goes on between boys and girls. My kids tell me that often it's easier to instant message and/or text than talk to someone "live," especially if the other person is someone whom they normally would feel nervous talking to face-to-face, and in fact may not talk to at all if it weren't for the texting/instant messaging.

Prudie, of course, advised her that all new technologies create a gulf between generations during the time that society is adjusting to them.

The letter reminded me of how the Internet really has changed certain things. Online communication really helps people come out of their shells. 

I have a loose circle of acquaintances, most of whom live in my town, and communicate on a message forum. Now and then we get together for lunch or a party, but by and large, our social life is lived on this forum. And boy, are we an outspoken, gabby bunch. A large proportion of the members are in the broadcasting industry, so you'd expect them to be somewhat boisterous. Other members have known each other for a long time, so that when we do get together, there's a lot of loud joking & other silliness going on.

But then there's the bank teller, whose avatar is this guy from the movie "The 300":

When I heard he was going to be at one of our parties, I was curious to talk to him ... I expected him to start burning and pillaging as soon as he walked in the door. But instead, he went and stood over by the wall for nearly an hour, grinning but answering questions in monosyllables, until someone coaxed him out a bit.

In truth, the overwhelming majority of our forum members are like him. Plenty to say, very intelligent, but surprisingly shy and inarticulate in a crowd of people, when they are actually required to SPEAK. Get a keyboard in front of us, though, and all the stuff you never suspected was in our heads finds an outlet.

We have a number of law-enforcement types on our board, and for them, too, it's better than therapy. They have to toe the line with the public and their superiors, but online, under the cloak of anonymity, they can share the stuff of their waking nightmares in awesomely vivid prose.

Blogging and online social networking are amazing things, not to be underestimated. Someone asked me recently how many close friends I had. The answer, in terms of people I see and talk to on the phone regularly, came out to maybe three, not counting in-laws. But I was thinking about Beagle, CalendarGrrl, Misterpatootiehead, Shoedown, Dixalyve, Ratzo.....


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