The Net makes exploring the world and engaging with it easy in a way we’re only just getting used to. Within a few keystrokes, you can be digging into the news, indulging your curiosity, or foundering in an obsession or addiction. Practically speaking, you can communicate with most anyone you wish whenever you wish. And you can do so at a remove — step away from the PC, or just hit the back button, and your engagement ends.
That remove can be a wonderful thing. It lets us indulge our curiosity almost as quickly as we can think, makes it easy to drop a line to someone we might not feel like we have time to call on the phone and allows us to be part of a community that may be too diffuse for real-world interaction.
The danger is that interacting at a remove can come to seem preferable to the messiness of the real world, where a greater commitment is required and interaction demands more of ourselves than it does in our compartmentalized worlds of browsers and digital personas…
David Weinberger pointed out this passage in his blog posting today, and talks about the value of “what if-ing” via the web. My first thoughts go a different way… Some would argue that too many people are checking out of their local reality to spend time in virtual worlds online, television fantasy and the like. It’s one thing that makes Front Porch Forum such a different experience for people… FPF draws you into your local scene… people become more involved with the neighbors and community around them through the service.