Bit by Bit: Finding Our Humanity Online and Off

I was cruising the Web with a friend today, foraging through Fandango, pillaging on Pandora, and seeking out some juicy gems on Facebook, when it dawned on me how much power the Internet truly has. And I mean this not only in the obvious way, but also in a more visceral sense — even when you’re spending time with a person face-to-face, the Internet can enhance the moment and make it pop. It can make it all the more immediate.

I'll explain. While the social potential of the Internet is pretty duh by this point, the reason I feel this topic is extra compelling snowballed out of the fact that tonight, I wasn’t with just any friend — I was on a first date.

That's right. A first date. To wit: We were enjoying ourselves in a blur of contentment after wolfing down the best Brussels sprouts I’ve ever had, when we proceeded to huddle around the laptop. As we sat in front of the computer, the awkwardness and crushing self-awareness that hover close to most first dates suddenly began to float away — we were just there, two friends having a fun time.

“Check out the comments for this movie!” “Ooh ooh, that’s a great song!” “Wait, you know Hannah too?” “Ha! What’s that face you’re making?” “OMG, your hand looks like it’s attached to that hobbit-looking dude.” “Oh check out this video, it was shot right outside your building.” “No way, I can’t believe she spelled that with an ‘s.’ What a poser!”

And on and on. It was a get-to-know-each-other experience set to fast forward. But more than that, it was a stimulating, effortless and enjoyable evening, and the connection we made was real. And no, I don’t mean this in a romantic, schlocky kind of way, but in a satisfying, warm and intrinsically human way.

So while many might forebode technology as the beginning of the end to our humanity — chipping away at our souls and sucking out whatever’s left of our spiritual essence — I believe it can bring us closer to whom we really are. We just need to relax, enjoy it and strap ourselves in for the ride. Yes?