What it means to be an Internet Person
The internet is a really important part of my life. Sometimes I feel embarrassed about that, but I try not to.
The reason I sometimes feel embarrassed is because people who don’t rely on the internet as much as me find it incomprehensible. And the easiest response to not understanding something is to criticise or insult it. The truth is, I find it incomprehensible that there are people who don’t use the internet at all.
If you don’t use the internet as much as I do, you probably reacted to reading that by thinking “How sad, you can’t entertain yourself without the help of computers”. But it’s nowhere near that simple. Yes, sometimes I use the internet to entertain myself when I’m bored. And there are times when that could be replaced with a book or going for a walk, but I choose the internet because it’s easier or more convenient. Sure, feel free to consider me lazy for that – I’m sure it’s sometimes true.
But that is by far the least important use of the internet for me. Here are some things I wouldn’t have or do if it wasn’t for my use of the internet:
- I wouldn’t know, or be able to communicate with, many of my closest friends.
- I wouldn’t know how to best care for my pet gerbils – and might not even have them if I’d never learned what good pets they make.
- I would never have progressed further in knitting than making a misshapen rectangle.
- I wouldn’t be learning Swedish right now.
- I wouldn’t be able to motivate myself to shower or leave the house.
- I wouldn’t be studying my degree.
- I wouldn’t know that I was autistic. I wouldn’t know other autistic people. I wouldn’t be writing for and learning from other autistic people.
In short, I wouldn’t be doing much at all.
Why I’m an Internet Person
I know that some people don’t use the internet much – some people don’t need it much. But there are a lot of different types of people who the internet is well-suited for, and I just do happen to be in lots of those groups.
- Shy people.
- Introverted people.
- People who communicate better in writing.
- People who find it difficult to go out.
- People who like reading.
- People who like learning.
- People who have trouble making friends.
- Autistic people!
I know that last one is a bit of a generalisation. They’re all generalisations, of course. It’s just that I think a lot of the reasons I benefit so much from using the internet are related to being autistic. Some people might think it’s sad that most of my closest and most fulfilling relationships are with people I’ve never met. But it’s not that I’m choosing that over face-to-face relationships. It’s that I wouldn’t have those relationships at all if I wasn’t using the internet.
What I get from being an Internet Person
I was talking to my brother the other day about the computer game Minecraft, which I’ve recently started playing. I mentioned that I had been playing a multiplayer game online, and he said “But with who? How do you find people to play with?”. And then he paused and said “…You know people, don’t you.” My brother, the most sociable, gregarious, and charismatic person I’ve ever known – he would have trouble finding someone to play Minecraft online with!
I know that’s not the best example of a vital social skill. But I think it’s representative of the general way that I am able to use the internet to my advantage. Playing Minecraft might not be the most enriching, productive, or sociable use of my time. But playing it with other people, where I can talk to them and work together, is still better than playing by myself.
It might not seem like much of a skill, but I think effective internet use can be really valuable. I read a post recently (be warned for a bit of swearing, and confusing formatting if you aren’t familiar with tumblr), which is part of what prompted me to write this one. My ability to find friends to play computer games with is just one minor example of the way I can use the internet to my advantage.
All those other things I listed are yet more examples. And that linked article mentions another big one: rapid skill acquisition. My default when I don’t know something isn’t “never mind then”, it’s “I’ll look it up”. I find it truly baffling that there are people who think easy access to information online can possibly be a bad thing. But I’m sure those same people find it baffling that the internet can be so important to me.
I spend a lot of time on the computer, and that’s OK. I’m an Internet Person.