Online spaces have fascinated me for a long time. Humans using technology to create a virtual space to interact with each other in a way that wouldn’t be possible without the internet.
There are many people who argue that the increased usage of the internet and technology is killing imagination, innovation, and social interaction.
I would like to call bullshit on this notion.
The idea of the internet itself exhibits imagination. We can’t touch, smell, or hold the internet, but yet creativity flourishes through vines, Youtube, and fan-art. We can collaborate with people half-way around the world. Innovation is happening every day, through new apps, fan-fiction, online fund-raising campaigns, and so much more.
I really want to focus on the social interaction aspect of technology and the internet.
I’m extremely tired of people saying that Millenials are depriving themselves of social interaction because we are all attached to our computers and smart phones. What people are ignoring is that some virtual spaces are in fact healthier and richer than any physical space that a person can access.
I went to Catholic school, and obviously conversations about sex and sexual health didn’t exist. There wasn’t a space to explore, learn, and ask questions. And then I found the internet. Obviously there is some terrible and false information that exists online, but it was no more false and terrible than the information I was receiving in ‘the real world’. I was able to search and explore at my own pace. There were sights that gave advice to teenage girls, run by women. It was like Seventeen magazine, only it solely focused on what the community and users wanted to talk about.
When I came out to myself at college, I was in a more supportive and open environment, but I really didn’t know that many LGBT people, especially women who I felt comfortable talking to about my queerness. What it meant to be queer, relationship advice, and sexual and general health. The internet had spaces like Autostraddle and Tumblr where I could once again explore how I could shape my queer identity, learn about myself, and learn about LGBT history that I never had access to before.
I was luckily enough to grow up in a fairly supportive environment, and I still needed those virtual spaces. Think of the 13 year old in the rural south who is figuring out she’s a lesbian and doesn’t know any out LGBT individuals. Would she be better off without the internet, living in the ‘real world’ where she has no access to a support network and community?
People are creating in ways they never could before in all of human history. People are sharing their stories and experiences that never had a voice before. Connections are being made worldwide, which are expanding worldviews and spreading information and ideas.
There are obviously downsides to the internet, but there are downsides to every new innovation. It is important to be critical of new technology and how it is being used. That being said, criticizing a medium should not involve completely ignoring all of the good it creates.
Online spaces are crucial for us to expand and grow. Without them, finding like-minded people and people who challenge us might difficult to impossible to find. And that can be a lonely existence. The connection formed online can be some of the most important ones we make. No one has the right to say that interacting with people in your town is more real that a heart-felt conversation with a friend who lives hundreds of miles away.
The internet lets us shape and create a world that is not defined by physical boundaries, that lets us explore new ideas and talk with people that we never had access to before.
It’s human, and it’s beautiful.