5 Reasons Why the Internet Gives Me Hope

There’s a big part of me that rebels against that statement. More than half of me is as disgusted with “technological advances” as the next luddite. I feel a large inner pull to disappear into a forest somewhere, with no electricity, no phone, no wireless. I met a man like that one time, when I was living at a remote hostel in the wilds of British Columbia. I literally stumbled into his homestead while on a hike, and found him sitting on a log in the sunshine. He was feeding seed to the birds and chipmunks, which were gathered around him like he was Snow White. I was hiking with a friend, and the three of us struck up a conversation, about the realities of this stranger’s existence. The man was gruff and grizzly, but when asked if he ever got lonely, he looked at us like we were crazy and said, “Why would I be lonely when I have all this?” as he gestured to the birds, trees, sky. Why, indeed?

To say that I feel concern about the continuing impact of computers on us socially, developmentally, environmentally, and culturally, would be an understatement. I certainly will not be rushing out to buy a baby touchscreen computer, nor am I interested in having a computer in my eye, and I am terrified at the realization that this is the wave of my daughter’s future.

We were all witness this past spring to the uprising in arab countries, due in large part to organization via social media. While it could be said that this kind of witnessing is akin to the passivity experienced while watching reality TV, I remain curious as to what is brewing in the subterranean depths of our collective consciousness. I think that the mass witnessing of events all over the world is shaping our future in ways that we have yet to dream of.

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend a conference on ecopsychology, presented by Holos Institute, where I am an intern. One of the resounding themes of the day was the (often overlooked) importance of a sense of PLACE. Where did you grow up? Are you still there? What kind of relationship did you have with the land, with the flora and fauna, with the spirits of nature? Do you have a sense of place now? How does that impact you? 

It is a theme not unfamiliar to this blog, but for many folks I am aware it is a topic wholly unregarded. It can be difficult to communicate, even more complicated to locate internally….which leads me to REASON NUMBER ONE why the internet gives me hope. Access to creative brilliance can be not only inspiring, but in this case heartbreaking enough to illuminate within why home and  relationship to place is central and core.

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(Click on photo for link)

The testament for REASON NUMBER TWO is…well, you’re reading it! If you know me in real life, this will come as no surprise, but for those of you who don’t…socially, I’m a bit of a locked box. Introverted, inclined to be shy, a true INFP on that Meyers-Briggs scale, with a reserved persona that often comes off as stuck-up and aloof…the quiet perceptions that make up my reality are not something I feel able to share in casual conversation. Never one for the snappy come-back, my deepest thoughts and reactions are latent, secret and private. My sense of being “different” has been a source of social ostracization and fertile ground for melancholy. Through my writing here, I have not only been able to express myself in a way that feels safe and whole, but that has allowed me to feel witnessed individually and has enriched my relationships with others in real life. Where I may not have seemed approachable before, now interactions are infused with warmth. Many before me have sounded the beat of the blogger drum, but I will sound it again…blogging has enabled me to make connections with soulful others that I NEVER would have come into contact with otherwise. Now instead of feeling isolated and sore thumb-ish, I find I am in good company.

Which leads me into REASON NUMBER THREE. Can I get three cheers for the It Get’s Better project?

The spotlighting of the plight of LGBTQ youth (and adults still hiding in terror) in the past year is wholly due, I think, to the dissemination of information and videos like the one above. The internet also makes information accessible to rural communities…and I wonder how my childhood and teenage years would have been different if I had known that not everyone in the world was a cold-hearted red neck.

Growing up in a staunchly republican town was painful for a myriad of reasons, but one of the biggest was the constant invalidation of my perceptions regarding animals and nature. One of our most pervasive (and most blindly ignorant) cultural myths is the one that justifiies subordination of the creatures we share the earth with. Cartesian paradigms have created schisms in the connection to self and other, the biggest of the others being all those in the animal kingdom. Make fun of all the LOLcat videos on youtube if you want, but I think they are serving a very, very profound purpose. Every day I am heartened by video testimony of the sentience of animals. The idea that animals don’t have feelings is quickly being replaced by what we have all secretly known all along…we are not alone. (REASON NUMBER FOUR)

(Big thanks to America for turning me on to this video.)

Which brings me full circle back to REASON NUMBER FIVE…the power of connection. To not only connect in terms of messaging or organization, but to connect to heart. The internet will never be a substitute for experiencing a foreign country in real time. And we have had books and film for quite a while now. Yet, I have also never been moved to streaming tears by an encyclopedia. Reading testimony in a daily travel blog has given me an inner vision of places that I know I will never go to. We can’t all travel the world, but it is imperative that we have a sense of our actions on a global scale. We need to care, deeply, about not only the plight of the earth or its people, but also the plight of the heart. We need to unite, and I think we have the tool. (You may have seen this, but it’s always worth seeing again.)

Does the internet give you hope or despair or apathy?

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13 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why the Internet Gives Me Hope

  1. The internet gives me hope, for all the reasons you mentioned.
    But especially for the support it offers. In a world where you can feel so alone, it’s nice to feel connected to people that are like you.

    Thank you for the beautiful blogs, they are one of the highlights of my day!

    1. aw, amy, thank you so much for saying that. getting a comment from you is a highlight of my day! i know that both you and i went through our pregnancy with a lot of online support, and our experience of connecting with others this way goes beyond blogland. “i know you know”. 🙂

  2. The internet gives me hope, because it’s filled with wonderful people I would never have otherwise met. Sure if it disappeared tomorrow, I would find myself rifling through my books for information not at my fingertips and in desperate search of a better encyclopedia, BUT mostly I’d be training carrier pigeons for a regular route to Northern Cali.

    It is a convoluted, confusing beast, but as you’ve pointed out the interwebs of information super duper freeways is a place of creativity, the good in humanity and a wealth information and connection. I say let’s keep it.

    1. wait, who needs pigeons when you’ve got bees? i think you could tie little messages to their pollen sacks, one letter at a time. then they would all come and swarm and when they did their little waggle dance, the words would spell out your message. get on that, would you? if anyone could do it, it would be you. love.

  3. Well being the guy that always looks for the good in everything, I’m hopeful that the internet will bring us, (the world community), together. As usual I have other one of my links I think you, Jeff and your readers should check out: http://www.republicfortheunitedstates.org/

    Give it a read. It’s extremely informative.

    1. your positivity is one of the things i really appreciate about you walter. especially since i know that it is not blind or naive, but quite genuine from that heart of yours.

  4. I feel safe in saying that overall, the internet is an incredibly beneficial resource and so I’d have to go with hope. I’ll echo your and Milla’s sentiments and agree that I would have never connected with whom I have were it not for the net. And for that connection to be formed via something so nebulous and just… strange as the internet (because really, it’s just data floating through the air and stored on hard drives, right? Crazy.), I find it dizzying to have found people who resonate so deeply with me.

    I also wanted to tell you that I’m also an INFP in the Myers-Briggs test and have the same problem you’ve had; people often don’t understand that I’m not arrogant, I’m just shy and it takes me a long time to warm up to folks (if I feel they’re nice people). I was struck by this: “My sense of being ‘different’ has been a source of social ostracization and fertile ground for melancholy.” Yes. I’m so happy to read that your positive experiences in blog-land have bled into your every day life. It also gives me hope maybe the same can happen for me 🙂

    AND, Fum and Gebra are so awesome. A black cat and a barn owl are a most mystical pair. Plus, it’s freakin’ beautiful that they’re pals.

    So much love.

    1. i am so happy to hear that you are an INFP too…we’re only 1% of the population you know! i had a long time friend from highschool who was an INFP, and my conversations with her always left me feeling relieved to have found someone who could speak my language…and where the conversation left me feeling inspired, instead of wondering if i was crazy! i took the test again yesterday afternoon, just for kicks, and the result was ISFJ. WTF? i have taken the test many times over the years and always come up INFP. i’ll have to take it again from another source, but i do wonder if becoming a mother has changed me. ISFJ is “the protector” whereas INFP is “the healer” and i think healer + being out in the world + motherhood might translate into protector.

      i do hope that your everyday does begin to have magical transfusions of being seen for the deeply authentic you (not to mention the arrival of certain fiddler gentlemen!). my experience of your gentle insightfulness and heart of gold leads me to believe that those of us on this continent who can’t spend real time with you are really missing out! xoxox

  5. hmmmm. i pretty much agree with you on every reason. however if it does go away someday, i am with milla and her pigeons, i will have some sort-of pony express going straight to sf regularly. and to a few other places. that would be nuts!! hope is fun. hope is fertile. you are fun and fertile ground. take care dear one. love.love.love.

    ‘I also wanted to tell you that I’m also an INFP in the Myers-Briggs test and have the same problem you’ve had; people often don’t understand that I’m not arrogant, I’m just shy and it takes me a long time to warm up to folks (if I feel they’re nice people). I was struck by this: “My sense of being ‘different’ has been a source of social ostracization and fertile ground for melancholy.” Yes. I’m so happy to read that your positive experiences in blog-land have bled into your every day life. It also gives me hope maybe the same can happen for me ‘……….

    also, mary, that whole paragraph made me wonder for a sec if you were talking about me. i have had a lot of people tell me i am so intimidating in person because of the same deal. i am just an infp, whatever that is, but i’m sure i’m one too. and blog sharing has so let me speak out loud, so to say, in ways i haven’t been able to before. and then it transfers a bit into my real face to face world, and i find i can speak out loud a little easier than before this blog chapter. healing magic in the internet, yeah?!

    1. like i said to sara, talking to INFP’s always leaves me feeling like ‘finally…someone who gets it!”. not to dismiss my love and connection with all the people who are dear to me, but it is such a relief to “be gotten” and to be seen in that deeper, more secret way. is it any wonder we love each other? my experience with blogging is similar to yours as well, in that i am able to get more precise and clear on what i REALLY mean or what i need to say or how i orient, and then i find i can speak out easier socially.

      and no doubt, if the internet would disappear tomorrow, i would gladly go back to the old fashioned notion of writing letters. did you ever have a pen pal? there was a time when, instead of email, i would write letters, and the delight and anticipation of receiving one back has not been reproduced by my computer inbox. xoxoxxo

  6. Whaddya know? I went to check back on comments because you always graciously reply to them and having never heard of Myers-Briggs I looked it up and did the test (you love ticking off boxes) and whaddya know: I’m an INFP too…which is strange because I’m not really shy, though I am socially awkward. I don’t know if that makes any sense. It was definitely an interesting test to do because on so many points I felt like going “YES! how did you phrase this question so that it perfectly reflects my feelings?”

    I also wanted to add that I do think of a lot of my online friends as modern-age penpals, I always made friends from faraway places when I was younger and had lots of mail-friends. “We used to wait…for letters to arrive…” Right?

    Anyway, thanks for all the insight you provide. And much love.

  7. Your reason number 2 really resonates with me too. I’m not sure what my Myers-Briggs rating is, but it sounds like you and I have a lot in common personality wise. I do recall once taking a similar sort of test and coming up 100% on the introversion scale.

    I’ve dealt with my share of socially-inspired melancholy throughout life as well, though as I’ve gotten older and become more accepting of who I am, it has lessened greatly. For me it has always felt more like a sense of unintentionally self-inflicted isolation rather than ostracization. Which can be super frustrating because I know that I am the only one standing in my way socially, yet I just can’t seem to move out of the way.

    I feel the same way about the internet having helped me get around this aspect of my personality to some degree and I feel so lucky to have befriended so many amazing women that I probably never would have otherwise, not only because of the physical distances involved but also because of my own tendency to keep myself at a social and emotional distance from people. Though when the stars align just so, I do have a knack for mustering the unexpected snappy comeback, I will give myself that 😉

    Anyhooo, I just wanted to chime in and say that “I get it” and I’m quite glad to have “met” you 🙂

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