The advent of the Internet and interconnectivity has released an explosion of human creativity, the likes of which may never have been seen on this planet. Major evolutions in lifestyle occur by way of changes in tools as happened during the industrial age. But even larger evolutions occur by way of changes in social communication.
Fifteen to twenty years ago, a simple teleconference would have taken a lot of effort. Now every child can and does create similar discussions with routine ease. The ability to connect instantly with numerous others is now more a part of the social lexicon than at any other time of humanity.
However, there are many people who do not feel attached to this technology. They do not feel it to be a part of their lives, nor do they wish it to be.
There are many reasons to stay away. For some, this may be fear. Others may simply find no use for it. Their lives already provide all the wants, cares and worries they have grown accustomed to. The momentum behind their life trajectories, be they young or old, is strong enough that a brush with the electronic world is felt as no more than a brush.
The world is undergoing a major social shift. There is a new branch of society comprised of those wanting to embrace the technological communication modes and those wishing not to. We presently witness mainly the budding of this branch. At the beginning of any growth, we witness the greatest creativity, as one sees with the budding of a new leaf. And partially, by this very creativity, we can tell that a branch is indeed beginning to grow.
The population is still mainly comprised of those who do not pursue these new avenues of communication and those who straddle the branch, rather than those who live almost exclusively on-line. The ones who are adopting the new lifestyle are still considered fringe. Those that decide to go nowhere near the social divide may not perceive the magnitude of the divergence.
To put this in perspective, the World of Warcraft, a massively multiplayer online game has just past 6 million subscribers. This was nearly the population of Detroit, Michigan in the year 2000 by report of the US Census Bureau. This is also about 2% of the US population. By rough estimates, and some wikipedia hunting, this makes it larger than about 90 countries or so.
Similar to the development of cultures from one country to the next, there may be difficulties in communication. The divide is no longer the geography of rivers and oceans, but rather the gulf of choice between embracement of a technology or not.
Already, there is a dramatic change in speech that optimizes the use of the typed text. At the same time playful, it is creative and fills in new needs specific to the online world.
But, the divergence may even be bigger than this. Culture development is about groups living in different environments with perhaps some difference of starting characteristics. People migrating to the Americas did so for varied reasons. But though they were each individuals, they too had similarities that differentiated them from those that stayed home.
As an example, those with Asperger’s disorder have a very difficult time in dealing with others. Reading other people’s emotions and guessing motives can be very difficult. These abilities often need to be learned by rote methods such as those one employs when actively studying, rather than by the usual means one uses while growing up. However, many with Asperger’s learn to adapt and use their unique abilities of thought to be major forces of society.
Articles I have seen recently, describe the benefits the online world can have both in teaching social skills as well as providing an environment where the emotional playing field is leveled. Online, people cannot read each other’s emotions by facial expressions or tone of voice. However, if a person types a colon and a parenthesis like so : ) everyone understands the meaning of the emotion conveyed. Also, the decision to display an emotion is far more in the conscious and logical realm than that seen in the affectionately described “real life” (RL).
There are many, many other reasons why any particular person may feel that the virtual world can benefit them or provide something that RL cannot. Beyond the computers that are used, it is the people and the interface between them that ultimately draws the interest. Wherever that connection is the greatest for the individual, that is where one often drifts.
In this different environment of people and communcation, individuals will change their culture – knowingly and unknowingly. Their language will adapt. The methods of ruling stem from RL and change into something very different.
Is the online world a new form of country being inhabited and civilized? If so, the process is still in the early phases. Those entering are still wide-eyed and awed. Those on the sidelines seem to be scratching their head in wonder or unaware that anything profound is going on. Whatever it is, this seems a time to watch in amazement as humanity undergoes massive shifts like never before.