Last night I engaged in a few Twitter conversations ranging from the death of democracy to the bizarre cult following of Apple fans to whether or not the Supreme Court should allow bigots to protest at military funerals. They were intellectually appealing and somewhat fun. I had planned to work on editing my book, but instead I had the chance to ask questions, offer opinions and get involved in intellectual sparring matches with like-minded people.
Yet, I kept feeling lonely. Something about feeling "connected" without the sense of space or tone or texture offered just enough personal connection to give me a hint of relational proximity without the authenticity that I would get from sharing a pint with someone.
So, I switched to Hulu and watched an episode of The Colbert Report and then an older re-run of Modern Family. It was neither interactive nor relational. However, my thoughts were not limited to 140 characters and oddly enough I didn't feel lonely, either. It's because the television, as a medium, does not pretend to know me or interact with me. Instead, the shows offered a sense of story, context and commentary that had been missing from the Twitter streams.
This left with a series of questions:
- How do we recover the sense of space in our online interactions?
- Is this a common phenomenon to feel lonely when interacting online?
- How do we tell and listen to stories using media that are geared mostly toward short sound bytes? Does this mean that our own sense of narrative has been forever altered?
- Is there a balance we need between online interaction and traditional media?
- If television viewers don't feel as lonely as a Twitter user (perhaps too bold of an assumption), what does that actually mean? Is it possible that television (unlike Twitter or Facebook) is more dangerous in the fact that we rarely have a chance to feel the loss of space in our lives?