class reading


One of my good friends from high school actually met his now-boyfriend of a couple years online, much to my own nervousness at the time. Despite my own fears about him, he ended up actually being pretty cool and they're very happy together now. Watching my friend make a connection he could otherwise never have made where we lived online certainly gave me some pause at the time; I had always internalized the rhetoric mentioned about the internet being too dangerous and open a place to be that personal and establish that level of trust. If you couldn't see them, after all, then how could you know who they really were?

Today's readings interested my for a couple of reasons. First of all, the "Women and Children First" article really made me think about how much danger online social networks present. Her observations about the way women's interactions online were characterized vs. men's did give me pause; the power structure of innocents/predators/abstract governing entity was definitely implicit in the rhetoric she cited about women being harassed and of children being vulnerable to pedophiles. Obviously women, as she states, can take care of themselves just as well as men can online, and no one seems to be decrying the vulnerability of men on the internet. Plus, gender seems not to be so much of a factor sometimes online, where people can avoid specifying a traditional gender in many instances. As for children, when do children become able to recognize and choose to avoid advances from adults, and what danger do these advances really constitute online? Are teenagers really at risk for these things? Or is the cry for regulation, etc. really just the result of people being uncomfortable with a world in which a traditional, oppressive, power structure doesn't exist? Definitely worth thinking about.

The other thing that really interested me about the reading was the way in which social communities evolve online that change the way that people's lives work. Instead of living isolated and cut off, gay teens in areas where there aren't a lot of other gay teens or a lot of support can find people to talk to about being gay, and to network with them. As professor Fitzpatrick mentioned also, people who, because of the way getting a steady job works, are going to be in one place for awhile and don't have a ton of free time to go out and make new friends can also be in a position to meet new people, which totally changes their own life experience at that point. Thus, social norms for, well, socialization are being changed as well.