Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the web... at the same time, we feel emptier, lonelier and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history.
So says the almost-become-a-reverend Palmer Joss in the movie Contact.
In one way, what he says is true. Science & technology like the internet has given us the means to do anything and everything with a click of a button. Now you can even do your grocery shopping online and have them delivered to your doorstep (not available in Malaysia). You can find your own entertainment (clean or otherwise) with a small fee. You can look for dates, book cinema tickets, do your banking transactions, find information about the disease that you're having and even how to construct a bomb. Yet, all these facilities available online posed another problem, ppl tend to stay in and exist through a 15" monitor than to go out and have direct contact with another living being.
But in another way, he is not right. With the technology of e-mail friends and family keep in touch with each other more often. E-mails are fast, cheap, and you can write and edit them quickly (unless you're a 2-finger typist). They are efficient in the sense that you don't have to buy stamps, spare some saliva and tear your hair out looking for a mailbox. And when you did find one, you have to wait for 3 to 150 days (depend on how quick that person reply your letter) to find out if the receiver got the letter or not.
Classic example of a person who cannot live w/o e-mails -- me. If not for e-mails I would have dropped of the face of the earth. I'm not a phone chatter so I very rarely call my friends up for updates. And now that they're all married with kids I don't think they have the time to call me up either. So we just update each other through e-mail. I pride myself in having lots of friends. Let's see... there's my school friends (about 10 of them in my e-mail address book), my college friends (7), my university friends (15), my ex-colleaques (3), and my friends from another college (10). If you add the ones that don't have e-mails , I think I'm doing pretty good.
With chatting, you can have conversations with total strangers. And if you practice caution you won't expose yourself to danger from sick psychos. My first chatting experience was when I was in US. I was working at the library and I was bored so I log on to this Malaysian chatsite (I don't remember which one) and actually found a college friend. That poor guy was sent to this university where he's the only Malaysian. Not bad for a first time chatter. Other than that, there's nothing much going on in the chat rooms. Most of them know each other already and I don't know what the hell they're talking about most of the time. This pretty much is the case with any Malaysian chat site I went to. When I have an internet connection in my apartment, I tried aol (American Online) chat. I met a guy who suddenly asked for my number (I don't know why, maybe just to brag to his friends that he has a lot of numbers), a guy who asked if a black guy has a bigger dick than a white guy (I don't know then and I don't know now), a scientist, and a writer who claims he wrote some Rugrats episode. I had the longest chat with the writer that lasted until 2am. But I find it very tiring so chatting's not for me.
Another form of chatting is forums. Almost all websites have their own forums. This is where you can post your comments on the subject at hand or start your own thread provided that it's related to the website's objectives. Currently I'm active in IMDB. I also joined a book forum at abebooks.com a few months ago but I find it quite frustrating that I won't be able to get most of the books they recommended and most of the books they talk about I don't even know existed. I guess I'm not as good a reader as those english native speakers. I am not qualified to be called a booksleuth compared to these ppl. Anyway, joining a forum is fun and a good way to connect to ppl from other countries. If you're a movie buff try IMDB. They also have Malaysian movies there.
And now with the technology of blogging, virtual socializing has gone up to another level. Blog is basically a place for anyone to rant, rave, give their 2 cents worth of anything and everything under the sky. Best part of all, it's free. Of all the blogs that's floating around in cyberspace, I think I've only visited like 0.001% of them (and 99.999% of them has a link to Gongkapas ).
Having other bloggers visiting your blog is like having a neighbor over to your house. So all in all, bloggers are like members of a community with no boundaries where ppl don't care what you look like as long as you have something interesting to say. It's a community where members actually know each other (can't say the same about physical neighborhoods), where crime does not exist (at least physical crimes) and ppl are almost always nice when they come to visit. I find it interesting to see a blogger A that I've just visited suddenly turn up in another blog B, posting a comment. And then B would post a comment in another blog that was mentioned in blog A. And so the cycle continues. I think bloggers visit each other more often than the ppl who actually live next door to their house. Funny ain't it.
I think the technology of internet has made the cheezy song "It's a small world" not so cheezy after all. In fact, I think the song writer is freakin' prophetic!
So, if there's a 'Palmer Joss' out there who thinks that technology makes people "feel emptier, lonelier and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history", I have this to say,
"Go visit a cyber cafe and get an e-mail account."
But you have to consider that the movie came out in 1997 and I don't think they've discovered blogging. So I'll cut him some slack.