There is no such thing as a cyber community. At best, there already exists a community that perhaps can be enhanced through an online connection. The problem is not the intranet (sic), but a society that sees it fit to spend time in a den in front of a box watching people that they have never met instead of having coffee with a neighbor.
And then they ask the question:
Is this due to design or demand?
My answer is: The design has fulfilled our demand.
Families and communities alike are patchwork quilts — collages of people knitted together not by choice or common interests, but by the happenstance of blood or proximity. The mix of people we happen to find in our homes and towns is where we can find our greatest opportunity for love and friendship, and also hatred and hard feelings.
When Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” the simple answer was whoever happens to be nearby. But neighbors can sometimes be unlovable. If you have a neighbor who is not easy to love, the old solution — in fact, the only one short of calling the police — was for you to look to your heart and seek a new attitude. Now, thanks to our modern mindset and wealth, you can instead look to your wallet and seek a new neighborhood.
Trying to flee from, instead of deal with, people in our families and communities has led to innumerable social problems. Exclusive suburbs, adultery, 80-hour work weeks, school busing and the generation gap, although not morally equivalent, all try to rearrange our natural living arrangements into something that allows us to avoid certain uncomfortable people or situations. They’re all attempts to tear apart the fabric of our patchwork quilts and rearrange our individual swatch with other swatches that we think we’ll prefer.
And then the Internet steps into this environment. It is no wonder that “social” Web sites such as Facebook and MySpace are so popular. They say they are “social,” but what they really do is drive a wedge between where you are and who you are.
So we cannot simply blame the Internet for our social situation. It has merely accelerated the splintering of American society that has been happening — and that we’ve wanted to happen — for decades.
AB417’s essay is on the continuation page.