In addition to a number of topics, reading Rainie and Wellman’s Networked made me think about the ways in which my own family and close immediate circle of friends, peers and co-workers are so finely connected on a daily basis. While the authors use examples to show that online relationships are both failing and succeeding, I decided to look at their arguments through a more personal lens in the form of planning my spring break and my interactions with others during spring break through the use of online and digital communications in place of in-person communications.
My pre-break preparations consisted of such:
- Contact manager on maternity leave through e-mail and Gmail chat to confirm time off.
- Facebook co-workers in my department to coordinate finishing projects before time taken off.
- Skype with professor to confirm final project to be started during break.
- Text, and call, girlfriend’s parents to confirm them allowing my girlfriend and I borrowing their car for our trip to North Dakota.
My spring break interactions:
- Text and Facebook chat friends on our scheduled route to confirm weather conditions.
- Text mom to let her know I’m on my way and update her on my location.
- Skype with relatives abroad once home.
- Gmail chat with friends studying abroad.
- Long-distance call grandfather in Europe.
- E-mail and Facebook with co-workers to finish work projects and receive updates on upcoming assignments.
- Facebook chat with classmate regarding class work.
- E-mail mom and friends to thank them for their hospitality during break.
- E-mail and Gmail chat with co-workers to coordinate the upcoming week.
- Facebook chat classmate schedule a time to meet regarding a final project.
- Call professor in order to discuss a final project.
- E-mail advisor to discuss upcoming school year.
As you can see, our online and digital networked world, or at least in my case, is a part of everyday life from wake to sleep. While we may not have the in-person contact which the authors write about, it does not mean that our interactions are any less valuable or, even in some cases, less intimate. In my case, social networks and the Internet has not only made it easier to manage my professional life, but it has also enhanced my personal life in the form of communication (such as talking with my grandfather who I would not be able to talk to without the use of the Internet) on a more familial and personal level. While I would gladly trade all the social network possibilities in the world to spend time with my grandfather in person, for example, I’m very glad that possibilities such as Skype exist to at least provide some form of community and closeness.