Is Perspective Possible in this Insanely Digital World?

I’m working on a trip that may turn into a month of foreign travel.  As much as I’m excited to explore, perhaps it’s more that I just feel stale here.  My life is in front of a computer screen and I need to see things that aren’t measured in pixels.  There are people at the other end of the data, but something gets lost in the binary translation.  That something may be my perspective.

I listened to an NPR piece the other day discussing how 20% of Americans don’t use the internet at all.  I’d gamble that fewer than half of those who do sign on are regular readers of blogs.  Right now the common wisdom online is that it’s fewer than 1% of a site’s visitors who participate in the conversation.  Well, that fewer than 1% has become my friends of late–and let me just tell you, that’s not the real world.

It’s actually the fake world.  We can talk all we want about developing real relationships with real people, but for every 250 subscribers or social network add’s, I’d say that a half dozen are people I seek out when I need a friend.  I believe that the internet is fantastic for commerce, the world is flat, information is available, yada yada yada…but of the 35 people in my speed dial only one of them is on Twitter.  And that’s my girlfriend, who didn’t have an account before we met (thank you Elizabeth for being a separate voice!).  I hope I don’t rub off on her too much.

Okay, so it’s new media all right.  Well it’s only a matter of time before my friends move there?  Or hell if I update my speed dial, there’s at least one internet friend I’d like to add to that speeddial.

But those forms of communication aren’t really making me happier.  They satiate, they distill, they occasionally satisfy…but can I honestly say I wouldn’t be better off in a town of 1,000 with a handful of very strong relationships?

I love technology–I love it for its freedoms and its empowerment and its immediacy.  But I’d rather it be a footnote to my relationships, not the content.

So what’s this have to do with perspective?  If I want to escape from the echo chamber of many of the relationships I’m now developing, I need to get away.  If I want to build the same types of relationships I’ve always sought, I need to probe deeper than 140 characters.  That means real time with real people.  (That doesn’t mean networking or groups of dozens of people–it means real time with a few people.)

Travel will be a start.  I need to be reminded of the rest of the world.  And throughout I need to remember the type of relationships I really need.  I’m not going to find them with more people, I’m going to find them and maintain them with a special few.

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