Tuesday, December 8, 2015

On cyber communities (12/7/2015)

On the road again, for the last trip of the year.  It started pretty darn shitty, but finally made it to my destination as of this writing.  Wytheville is a sleepy town in "them hills" of Virginia. I have this reputation with my colleagues of being in love with this town, and for one reason or another I used to go here very often; at least until they discovered it.

When on the road I rely a lot on my (artificial) cyber communities that we all seem to have amassed around us.  I was reminded about that today during my drive over here listening to National Public Radio's Fresh Air by Terry Gross.  She was interviewing Rick Moody about his new book "Hotels of North America".  The book is written as a set of hotel reviews.

It made me think of how I live and depend on my cyber community when on the road:
  • Yelp (for restaurant reviews)
  • LinkedIn (for support form like-minded professionals, kind of like a support groups)
  • Facebook (mostly friends)
  • Google+ (my blog, more artsy community and bonsai enthusiasts)
  • Google Maps (for traffic updates and restaurant recommendations)
  • Weather Underground (all about weather)

Within these communities there are also special groups that I'm a member of.  For example in Facebook I'm a member of our church group, our neighborhood group, the Virginia birders group, and a bread bakers group.  In LinkedIn I'm a member of 20+ groups.  Driving over, I started realizing that I have a lot of fake or maybe artificial friends. The interesting thing is too that all these sites keep suggesting more groups that you might be interested in joining, like trying to suck you in deeper and deeper.

I'm always amused by my 88 year old father-in-law  (who reads these posts and will probably give me grief for mentioning him), because he seems so bemused by the fact that Facebook knows so (too) much about him and it keeps suggesting potential new friends to him or trying to invite him to join LinkedIn.  He is correct it is somewhat intrusive, just look at that list of communities that know my preferences etc. and keeps tabs on me.

But yes, without Yelp, I would never have found those great restaurants, or avoided those supposedly lousy ones.  I also write reviews, usually only of good experiences and only once or twice of really horrible dining experiences (I hated those professors that graded you on your mistakes and did not look at the things you did correct).  I never review a place to settle a score or to make someone look bad; I try to be a responsible partner in my community.  Some don't; this morning there was a thing on morning edition about women being taken advantage off through on-line dating, another one of those communities.

Internet communities are great things for a lot of people including me.  They put all your friends together: it allowed me to rediscover old long lost friends; it gave me support groups; it gave me traffic information; and I had some absolutely great inexpensive food.  So yes, I like my friends on my cyber groups, my real friends or virtual friends.  Moreover, traveling is lonely and it is better than getting silly in a bar.  But I realize as well, nothing is better than real life friends in real flesh that you can talk to, have a drink with and just be with.

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