I am selfish, arrogant, stubborn and opinionated. This does not exhaust my virtues, however, and I like to think I am also intelligent and imaginative. (Modesty is not one of my vices ;))
Such self-assertiveness is often held to be a symptom of insecurity and in my case that certainly makes sense as I was painfully shy as a child. Even now I sometimes find it hard to initiate social interactions though I am fine once things get going.
Perhaps this explains my enthusiam for what might be called electronic socializing. In the 1980s I ran a bulletin board (BBS) called The Dragon’s Tower but in the 1990s I moved to the Internet like everyone else. This opened a world of chat rooms, mailing lists, newsgroups and forums, all of which could be accessed using a pseudonym or “nick”. I dived in like an otter into a river.
Those I met online didn’t know who I “really” was and I could therefore be whoever I pleased, old or young, male or female, gay or straight, and I was all of these, and more, as the fancy took me. Conversely, of course, I didn’t know who these others “really” were, not that that matters all that much, in my opinion. People are interesting or dull on their own account, not on account of their profession or hair colour. Some of the people I met online became friends and we met in “real life”.
I have heard many people denigrate online friendships, saying that they are artificial, that you cannot “really” know someone in this way. I think these are usually people with no experience of the online world. It doesn’t occur to them to denigrate penfriendships, for example, perhaps because these are familiar and have been in existence since time immemorial. The Internet is a relatively new and therefore novel world, especially if you know nothing about it from first hand.
There are dangers online, of course, but these can be exaggerated. By emphasising abuses, the media give a warped view of the Internet even if they provide a balanced account of individual cases, which is not always true. There are cheats, frauds and abusers in the physical world too, but familiarity helps us keep these dangers in perspective. We need to apply the same common sense to the electronic world.