Tag Archives: Internet

Hopeful Science Fiction: Online Reunion

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Recently, I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the second story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them. 

There are mild spoilers in this post. 

Online Reunion

Close-up of a computer keyboard. The "enter" key is pink and has a red heart on it. Leigh Alexander’s “Online Reunion” was about a young journalist chronicling a vintage e-pet reunion who gets more than she expected.

One of the things I found most interesting about this tale was how little time it spent on the world building.

The Internet had changed society in some pretty profound ways over the decades, but this wasn’t something I fully appreciated until I read it for the second time. I’d definitely recommending reading this slowly in order to catch every hint about what’s really going on here.

Human Nature

Fashions may come and go, but human nature remains constant from one era to the next. The best portions of this story were the ones that quietly highlighted what has changed, and even more importantly what hasn’t changed, over the past few generations since people began using the Internet heavily.

Jean, the main character, thought she had a good idea of what to expect when she went to Mrs. Marchenstamp’s house to interview her. I was amused by the assumptions she made about the first generation who used the Internet heavily, especially once Jean realized that she might have underestimated her interview subject.

There was also something comforting in the thought of people finding new ways to connect with each other in a futuristic world where something similar to Internet Addiction Disorder is much more common and dangerous than it is today.

I can’t go into detail about that topic without wandering into serious spoiler territory, but I was pleased with how familiar this tale felt. Yes, the characters had access to technology that you and I can only dream of, and there were plenty of social problems the plot hinted at that seemed to have grown worse over time instead of better.

But I still felt as thought I could sit down and have a cup of tea with any of the characters. Other than the occasional slang term that would be used differently in their world than in ours, they seemed like people I already knew. There was a familiarity with their problems and their triumphs that made me want to get to know them better.

As much of a cliche as this is to type, people are people everywhere. I loved seeing all of the similarities between them and us.

It made me look forward to the future. What could be better than that?

Would Using Real Names Make the Internet Friendlier?

Anonymity on the Internet seems to be quite a large factor in the troll’s game. Essentially, the ability to be anonymous can free us up to express some things we would never openly express in public.

From the basal bigoted ideas we harbor, yet tell no one about, to the insecurities we’ve learned to collect throughout our time in society and on planet earth, trolling seems to be a stream for a number of these personal prejudices to come to the surface without our identity being known.

This quote from How to be Moral on the Internet has been bouncing around in my mind over the last 24 hours.

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Photo by Stefan Krause, license CC-BY-NC-ND.

Would the Internet be a friendlier place if everyone used his or her real name?

Would you say and do the same things online if you knew that your boss, parents, neighbours or friends might be reading over your shoulder?

From what I’ve seen strongly encouraging the use of real names online would weed out most trolls. There are people in this world who find gristly pleasure in anonymous Internet battles. I don’t understand their thought processes but this seems to be something that happens to every website, chat group and message board that has ever existed!

While the vast majority of my readers are thoughtful and respectful occasionally I have had to edit the comment section on certain posts to weed out less savoury replies. So far it has not been frequent enough for me to disallow anonymous comments or moderate any readers but the experiences of some of my friends on their sites have been much more conflicted.

Not everyone is comfortable using their true identity online, though. I know people who have created a pseudonym for commenting on blogs and message boards and participating in social media that remains stable for a long period of time. Some of these individuals eventually reveal their real name to trusted friends. Others don’t. All of them maintain dignified, kind personas, though, and would not benefit from social pressure to reveal who they really are to the world.

Even with the use of real identities there will always be aggressive individuals in a place as unregulated as the Internet. After all, We haven’t even figured out how to stop them in real life yet!

The Internet is not a Four-Letter Word

Over the last year or so some of the most popular search terms for this blog have been related to whether or not the Internet is good for our social skills.

I’ve had an online presence since the spring of 1999 and ever since then have heard the same arguments against spending time online trotted out regularly. Today I’ll be pushing back against the assumptions behind them. The arguments are in bold and my comments immediately follow.

The Internet is dangerous. Actually, most cases of rape, child abuse and certain types of murder are committed by someone the victim knows. Anyone can lie about their identity, past or intentions. Of course we should be cautious around people we don’t know well but meeting online doesn’t make “John” dangerous any more than meeting “Sally” at a friend’s party (or being related to her) makes her a trustworthy babysitter.

Internet relationships don’t foster genuine connections! Tell that to my husband. 😉 Longtime readers already know this but we first met on a message board many years ago. I didn’t know what he looked like until we met in person but I loved the man I’d gotten to know through email and phone calls. Yes,  one should be cautious in the beginning while you figure out if the other person is whom they claim to be but this is true of any relationship.

The Internet is destroying our social skills. I’ve never seen evidence of this. There have always been (and will always be) rude and polite people in this world. No technology can change human nature.

The Internet undermines local relationships. To be honest I do think access to the Internet has changed how often some people spend time with neighbours and acquaintances. Twenty years ago one’s social circle was almost always limited to people who lived nearby: coworkers, neighbours, friends of friends. If you shared common interests and a similar outlook on life this worked out well but it was also incredibly isolating for anyone who deviated from the norm. It’s much easier to pine for the good old days if you’ve never had to worry about being ostracized or discriminated against.