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Offline Life + Online Life = Life

A few years ago, during the brief time when I thought maybe I shouldn’t work in crafts and creativity and was instead working at a tech startup, I had the pleasure of having coffee with Alexandra Samuel. She’s a powerhouse thinker about social media – not in a slimy soc-med way, but in an intelligent, big-picture, empowering way.

She recently spoke at TEDxVictoria about why calling our offline life “real life” diminishes the legitimacy of our online experiences, contributions and relationships. I wish I’d been there to hear her speak, but the beauty of TED and YouTube is that we can all see her talk right here:

I used to apologize for my online life, much in the same way I’d shrug my shoulders and look away while I mumbled that for work I ran a crochet website. I stopped doing that a long time ago, and here’s why:

Through my online life – the relationships I’ve formed, the writing I’ve done, the ideas I’ve fleshed out, the things I’ve learned, the inspiration I’ve found – I developed my creative identity.

That’s no small feat, people. Before I got in touch with my creative side, I was a wreck. I was confused, depressed, directionless, self-conscious and generally lost. Not until I felt comfortable sharing my ideas in public, not until I met other people who felt (or had at some time felt) as confused as I did, not until I knew I had the freedom to try and fail and try and fail again, was I able to get in touch with what I need and want.

I found my people online, and that enabled me to find my people offline.

My whole life improved because of this. My offline relationships changed as I gained comfort and confidence. My ability to speak about my ideas in person benefited from my having fleshed those ideas out online. Running an online business informed my approach to doing business offline.

It’s all the same.

And as Alexandra says so well in her talk, not only does it undermine our personal experience to apologize for our online lives, it undermines the collective good that can can come from embracing online life as real life.

(My favourite of her ten points is #5. Which is yours?)

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Rodger

Have to say I was a little turned off by conflating porn with hate speech, and saying that it’s a socially-limiting behavior. Not all porn is about degradation, oppression, or sexist views of both genders. Porn can be positive, life-affirming, and highly social – And I don’t mean in a swingers kind of way. I agreed with a lot of what she said, but that bit of sex negativity really peeved me during an otherwise really great talk.

Rodger

What’s problematic is that what one person views as degrading, another person views as liberating. Not everybody can agree on which sex acts are considered “negative” – which is because, in my view, none of them are inherently negative except ones which deprive one of liberty or life. I am, of course, making this statement as it applies to consenting adults – There are circumstances where any sex act is negative or destructive, and that usually involves a lack of meaningful/informed consent from an adult.

The harder thing the quantify, and the more important thing to discover, is the intent and methods of the actors, the directors, the writers. Porn can be violent, and still be a good thing. It’s about informed consent, safety protocols, and the intent behind the actions. Some people will say those are things you can’t see on the screen, but I’d say that they are.

plainsight

#5 is great. I also like #8: “Your attention is a real resource.” Also the idea that you can devote real attention by not trying to do 45 things at once. Oh, and also the idea that you grow your own internet by using it to express your own values. Good Stuff. Thanks for sharing, Kim! (and p.s. You know how your Internet life affected my own life and career. I certainly won’t apologize for that. I’ll say THANKS!)

Sandi Rosner

Thanks for sharing this, Kim.  I loved the point that our attention creates the internet we experience – much like life as a whole.

Mercedes

Alexandra nailed it on this. 

I’ll back up Rodger on #8, even though, yeah, I personally find the majority of internet porn pretty tasteless. As Rodger said, it’s about consent and fair treatment, as well as personal viewpoints. I *really* can’t stand when sex/sensuality is equated to violence/hate as far as censorship/social acceptability goes. That said, I don’t need giant fake boobs in my face with every pop-up. Don’t even get me started on MPAA ratings…

#5, about who deems art as “Art”, is an excellent point. As an art school student in an inherently craft field (fiber arts, 1999), this is a longstanding, pre-internet debate. And as usual, it comes down to who we let judge/pigeonhole art, and making our own viewing space, online or not. Makers gotta make, haters gotta hate.

I’ll be revisiting this video; I love her take on internet life. I spend 8-10 hours most weekdays in my house, working. Alone, by most people’s standards (I’m pretty sure talking to the dogs doesn’t count.). *But* I have a huge community of friends and peers via the internet, especially twitter. I don’t think I could have survived the last few years without their support, conversation, or feedback. 

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