Scallywag

Storms make oaks take deeper root.

~ George Herbert (1593 - 1633) ~

The Web Is A City Street

April 1st, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 2 mins, 19 secs

Everyone needs somewhere to escape (even on the Web).

I used to think of the World Wide Web as a giant library, filled with information from all over the world. Even though you can’t be totally sure of its provenance, the Internet lets virtually access anything.

Well I’ve revised my view of what the Web is and now I conclude it’s more like a busy street in a fast moving city. Everything is speeding by and the traffic can be overwhelming. With sidewalks packed with people passing by it’s not hard to see that some are friendly, most are gruff, and a few look fairly scary.

In a big city you don’t know who you will meet out on the street, and so it is with the Web.

Unlike the quiet solitude and privacy of public library, there are eyes prying into your comings and goings on the Web. In a library you can curl up with a friendly book or amble in relaxed fashion along long shelves of books stacked, ready to read in quiet calm. But the Web, whilst it mimics that concept, is far more dynamic. Don’t like something? Click away. You could click through 20 places in the time it takes to check one or two books.

The Web is also a lot more dangerous. People with ill intent don’t tend to hang around libraries declaring you’ve received millions from a Nigerian King. Nor is anyone likely to skim your library account. But on the Web, like a city street, things can happen.

That means we cannot be complacent about what our kids are doing on the Web. You wouldn’t feel comfortable having your youngest wandering alone around a major city. So we do well to apply that same kind of consideration when they connect with the World Wide Web.

I don’t tend to see too many people reflecting kindness and warmth on the Web either. It can be hostile or simply an indifferent place. Unless you find someone you can trust and share with, it tends toward the impersonal and informational, where tenderness is denied.

Those who do dare to reveal their feelings risk reactions like trolling (a kind of antagonistic bullying), flaming, or simply passive aggression. Thanks to anonymity, the Web lets rudeness run rampant. Like downtown anywhere on a chaotic street, when bad things happen who’s going to care?

So we need to apply the same busy sidewalk caution to the Web to get the best from it. Whilst there’s risk on a hectic street, there’s also action, excitement, great people, and the chance to discover wonderful things (and the Web mirrors much of that).

Which is why my little corner of the Web is not just meant to be some form of “soapbox” but a place of relief. You can read (and comment if you like), being welcome to drop by anytime to be reminded that you’re appreciated. So, if you stop by and find something that makes you think, uplifts, or gives you a greater sense of connection, that’s excellent. Because, like travelling along a busy city street, it’s good to duck out of the maddening Web crowd now and then to find comfort and calm in a safe, friendly place.

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