Please visit VortexDna (The Internets Hierarchy of Needs) to check out their adaptation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs for the internet user. It’s a great starting point for coming face to face with what all this internet saturation means for personal fulfillment.
I immediately thought of a friend of mine who doesn’t really ‘get along’ with the internet. Her use of the internet is limited to finding directions, research, and occasionally reading the NYtimes. When she strays beyond these info boundaries, she’s assaulted by unpredictable websites, strange internet social behaviors, and lots of ‘weird things.’ The internet is more of a social vacuum to her… she would laugh at me if I explained Hugh Macleod’s sense of a ‘social object.’
So how can my friend ever use the internet as “frictionless tool for personal growth and fulfillment” ???
Maybe there’s another way we can think about it. I think it’s kinda like joining the YMCA. If your only experience with the YMCA is that exuberant song–or you actually think it’s the Young Men’s Christian Association, you might be anxious about joining such a community. Why join a gym to interact with strangers if you can just self-actualize without it? The stigma of ‘internet people’ and the expansive social protocols in online communities can be intimidating.
Take Second Life, for example. Give anyone a tour of even the most modest areas of Second Life and you’re going to lose a friend. Newt Gingrich held a press conference in Second Life, but I’m sure he was all weirded out with the ordeal. I’m sure he had a secretary digitally gesticulate for him while he awkwardly held a mic.
These feelings we have about internet communities are responsible for drawing lines between Facebook, Myspace, and Xanga. If all you know about social networks is Facebook, Xanga is a joke, and Myspace is an aborted fetus of social interaction.
Back to my friend… the only way to show how community on the internet is beneficial is to point to the great successes of the social web: We’ve got a massive encyclopedia (Wikipedia) to call our own, some semblence of political organization with the help of groups like MoveOn.org, EFF.org, and Mediamatters.org (+ weak groups on Facebook). These orgs are just as social as blinking noisy myspace… they’re just productive.