On ambient intimacy and assistive devices
[This post was originally posted at Hoyden About Town on January 27, 2009.]
I was having a discussion about ambient intimacy in a couple of elsewheres, where I tried (and possibly failed) to say that what is so reviled by opinion editors and other meatsnobs can be useful in all sorts of ways.
I like the little slices of life on my friends’ livejournals, however trivial, because I just can’t access this sort of chatter in my meatspace. Yes, I want to know how your daughter went on the first day of school, that you cooked a delicious recipe for dinner, that the eggplants are flowering, how your doctor visit was, what you thought of Big Love last night, that work is pissing you off, where you spent election day, or that the storm didn’t blow your roof off.
The internet is the virtual watercooler (or coffeehouse, or playgroup, or pub) for people like me, isolated due to disability. And I’m fed up with able-bodied folk slamming electronic community as a meaningless half-life. I’m sick of internet use being constructed as a signifier of a person as a pathetic loser worthy of mockery. And I’m over ignorant pundits reviling the rise in electronic community as The End of the World as We Know It, a one-way highway to the inevitable disengaged, apolitical fragmentation of society.
I think there might be an analogy to be drawn here with physical assistive devices. People who use wheelchairs, for example, use wheelchairs. They get around in them. Wheelchairs are useful, value-neutral objects. People are not “bound” to them; they’re not “condemned” to life in a wheelchair. The use of a wheelchair doesn’t mark a person as either a sinister or pitiable caricature. And above all, people are not synonymous with their wheelchairs. They’re people who use a mobility device, a tool.
The internet may be many things, but it is also my social assistive device. And that’s not tragic, or threatening, or worthy of scorn. It just is.