Eran's blog

Life, Online and Offline

Just finished reading On and Off the ‘Net: Scales for Social Capital in an Online Era by Dmitri Williams. As the title suggets, the article describes a new measure for Social Capital online and offline. An interesting read despite being a little technical (not “my kind” of technical, rather statistics and social science technical). Looking over the list of questions for measuring social capital online and/or offline I found myself thinking that I can’t really answer those questions properly anymore. It’s not that I’m lacking in a social life, quite the opposite actually, but my online and offline lives have almost completely merged (and in some cases flipped) since I moved to San Francisco.

When I lived in Israel my online life consisted of friends in the US that I connected to via IRC, Email, IM, etc. and offline friends and family that I saw and interacted with in person on a regular basis. Now those two have flipped and some of the people I was closest to in RL became online-only entities (except for when I visit back home). That’s interesting but somewhat expected considering that I flipped my life around by moving half way around the world. What’s more interesting to me is the merging of my online and offline life here in SF.

I have two main clusters in my social network. One is a group of friends that mostly formed online on tribe.net and then became a strongly connected real-life urban tribe. The other is a group I met initially in real-life (if you can call Web 2.0 parties real, that is) and I now experience on a daily basis via twitter, blogs, IM, etc. I am still a part of both groups both online and offline which makes separating my online and offline lives pretty hard. @rk and Ryan are the same person and the same is true for almost everyone else I know; there’s nowhere to draw a line.

It might be just me; I am, after all, mostly an introvert and I don’t meet new people very easily. I’ve pretty much saturated my social capacity so I don’t participate too much in online or offline activities where I can form new weak-ties (aka networking) also my friends and I are mostly very comfortable with technology and use it to communicate constantly. But I cannot help but think about the disconnect described in the beginning of the paper describing social researchers who failed to recognize that the Internet can be used for (and is indeed a hotbed of) social activity and see how a similar shift might be occurring now.

To me, the Internet is just another way to communicate. In many ways it’s a more efficient way to organize my social life, coordinate with friends and keep tabs on what’s going on in around my social circle. Separating my online life from my offline life is a futile effort and just doesn’t feel right. It’s all just Life and it’s all Real.

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