The Rainbow Connection

These days, everyone is connected, from the president, to that one guy who only tweets about soap operas and how much he loves Angelina Jolie. Even people who never EVER use their Facebook or Myspace or Twitter get connected, or at least feign it, because if you’re not connected, you’re dead to the world- or the Internet, although for some people, the Internet IS the world.

One of the first questions one teenager asks another is “Are you on Facebook?” or some variation of this, why? Because they’ll be connected to that person. Most Facebook conversations between teens consist of ‘hey’ ‘what are you doing?’ ‘cool’ and other fairly short replies. Why? Because they want to feel connected, the bland questions and short messages are little ways that teens assure each other that they are there, that they’re connected.

Everyone wants replies when they post something, and when they don’t get them, it scares them, they might not feel it, just disappointment, but the sadness is born from a secret fear that you are not connected, and that everyone else is. Teens have thousands of friends on social networking sites, they might not even know a third of them personally, but that’s okay, because the more friends you have, the more connected you are, online friends are the threads drawing you into the circle, the communal blanket of comforting connection.

Everyone has a cell phone now, but the phone has evolved from a communication device to another way to keep connected. There are thousands of apps to keep you connected, from Twitter to Facebook to apps. You know that one person who’s updating their status every five minutes? They’re trying to stay connected, they’re trying to keep themselves in the blanket by using every trivial thing in their life to hook themselves in. Others draw themselves into the blanket using this person’s updates, ‘liking’ them keeps them in the current, commenting helps them cling desperately to the weave and it’s ever lengthening boundaries.

When I get comments on something, I feel fuzzy, sure, but when I’m reading through Failblog or LOLcats or the trending memes and videos, I get this sense of belonging, the shared joke or picture, the thing that everyone’s watching, the shared conscious.

The Internet is a good place for lonely people, because it’s virtually impossible to dive into this bottomless sea without interacting with other people, whether it’s a mini war in the comments on some YouTube video or simply a sense of belonging while absorbing the trending meme, you are never alone on the Internet.

These days, if you aren’t on the Internet, you’re out of the loop, a deaf bat in a room full of other bats echolocating, staying connected. Oddly enough, this can be turned around, a person absorbed in their phone, trying to stay connected while everyone else is firmly on the ground, connecting the old fashioned way. Being connected is a good thing, we just need to remember to boldly tear ourselves away from the blanket, to leap off a cliff by yourself, to free fall from the warm but blinding blanket and into the clear, cool world of reality. You can huddle in the connection blanket or embrace to clarity of reality, but I recommend a careful balance of the connection and reality.

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