Starving in a Rain Forest
I can't help but wonder what my life would have been like if I'd never tried ICQ and its Random Chat feature. Before I got married, it was not uncommon for me to spend entire weekends in my home studio like a secluded ascetic happily cranking out tunes. Marriage made me a bit less inclined to be a hermit, but I was still content with little company. My creative projects still far outweighed my meager trickle of a social life. ICQ changed that. While the majority of my random chat "blips" came from people I never heard from again (or who were only there to push their webcam sites), I was lucky enough to form some important friendships. Some of those are still very much part of my life many years after I finally ditched ICQ for good.
I never got all that far with Messenger, Skype, or MySpace, but Facebook has had an even more profound impact on my life. Aside from the fact that it has reunited me with all kinds of long-lost friends going clear back to my kindergarten days, Facebook has also gotten me acquainted with all kinds of people, either as friends of friends, people checking me out based on my comments, or as the phenomenon known as the "game friend". All those network games I used to play introduced me to the tradition of adding people as "friends" virtually at random so as to give me more troops in the game sphere. Most were people I never had anything to do with, and they promptly vanished when I finally gave up online gaming last year. However, my tendency to comment on anything in my feed that catches my eye has gotten me acquainted with some truly wonderful people...maybe even some true kindred spirits.
But, as they say, therein lies the rub. I would rather be at my computer than out socializing. At the same time, however, my computer keeps making me feel frustrated; It's simply because my online friends are tied up in their own stuff most of the time and don't communicate with me. I have found myself spending hours doing almost nothing but stare at Facebook (and especially that "online" list) hoping that at least one of my friends will come online. Make no mistake; I still value my privacy very much. At the same time, however, now that I've become accustomed to - and maybe even dependent on - my online friends' company, I find myself feeling lonely and desolate in its absence. Consciously or not, I've come to long for that sense of fellowship...even if it means I wind up not getting anything done.