You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it. Robin Williams

Location: Kentucky, United States

Thursday, May 22, 2003

I still have hope.

When I first connected to the web, we did not have a local access number. Long distance dialing into AOL was the only choice available. The first call cost thirty dollars, which instantly put an end to casual surfing. I signed up to several topical news-groups and a e-mail chess club, which allowed me to connect, download that days posts, and disconnect making the daily charge as little as possible.

The first time I read my name in reply to a post amazed me. The woman who had written was in Australia, a stranger who just liked something I had to say about Earl Grey tea. I played chess with someone in Singapore, and someone else in England. I was astounded at the possibilities for communication that the web opened up.

When a local ISP came to our community, my family was in the first group to sign up. Now we had unfettered access to the entire world. The avenues of discussion would be intelligent and full of wisdom gleaned from experienced minds. I could not wait.

Then reality came.

The noise level was incredible. The chat rooms were filled with teenagers cussing each other and any passer by, just for the thrill of typing four-letter words. I tried Christian chat rooms and the smallest disagreement in doctrine turned into flame wars. In the Philosophy venues, who was dating whom, and what was happening at the mall, occurred more often than Descartes or Plato.

It was then that I realized the disparity between the potential and the reality of large group communication forums. Just because you can say something, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you have the opportunity to speak, doesn’t mean you have something to say. The flood of mindless chatter was not worth the effort of wading through so I settled for non-personal web sites and news channels.

It is not that I am a snobbish intellectual. I don’t even have a college degree. However, I read voraciously, and never grow tired of learning something new. If I ever won a lottery, the first thing we would do is travel, not to tourist spots, but backroads, native places to learn new ways of looking at common things. Then I would by a house in a college town, close enough to the campus that I could ride my bike to classes, and I would live the rest of my life in school. I would only take a couple classes at a time so I could devote myself to the subject. Then I would find the young minds, (no matter what the age) the ones with passion, we would drink coffee out of small cups and talk, and argue, and rail, but always come away friends.

I would just like to have some friends who share the same interests, who will not get mad at the slightest disagreement, friends who can separate opinion from emotion and know that we can disagree and still show respect. Is that too much to ask? I do not know, maybe it is.

This morning I was reading Tami’s blog and she said this:

“It’s hard to tell who reads these posts because people rarely comment. I don’t know if they are afraid of what other people think or maybe they don’t want me to know that they are readers, but let me say this: I wouldn’t have put this blog on the Internet if I didn’t want readers. Yes, I want my friends and family to stop in, but I also like hearing from complete strangers like Tim Tucker.”

I laughed at being called a complete stranger. I’m not sure; maybe this is as close as I will ever come to being a complete anything.

Then I realized that I am still looking for that sense of community on the web. I am still hopeful for friendship among strangers, to intellectually touch and be touched with acceptance, despite our differences, to learn and grow together, to look into another's lives, not as a voyeur, but as an absent companion.

Blogging has become the best possibility for coherent personal communication on the web. Among the better journal-blogs consideration is taken before posting, thoughts are mulled and meditated over before being let fly into the world. That is what makes web logs so exciting, slow, thoughtful discourse among people of like minds exchanging experiences and ideas from a multitude of backgrounds. This is the greatest potential the web has to offer. It is not in commerce, or cheap entertainment that the web finds its purpose, but in bringing people together, to learn about and from one another until we see that there is no them and us, there is only us.

I still have hope.


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