Admiral of Morality: April 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Confessions of a "die hard cyber-girl," and other tales

When at sea it is second nature to calibrate based on all manner of information gathered via long distances. We adjust for winds, tides, heights, temperatures, depths and so forth, and don't much think twice about adjusting based on a voice we've never seen or a readout of data compiled by computer.

Even so, if we are over 18 or so, we might still wonder just how real and enduring cyber/virtual/online discussions and interactions can be, and how these might affect our physical interactions and discussions.

No doubt the wondering ends, when a physical world discussion or interaction, is based on or highly informed by, a virtual one--say, when a package examined and purchased virtually, arrives at our doors the very next morning. In these instances, the cyber world becomes very real indeed.

It's not so much that the virtual world affects us, but the extent to which it now does, that makes us wonder.

Many people of college age and younger, do not wonder much about it at all.

For them, cyber interaction is regular and typical, and in fact, often far superior to physical discussion and communication. Indeed, for most of them, the cyber interaction is essential to the physical interaction, and can be far more regular.

Why is this so?

There is a good deal of research and emerging study in this area. One thing we can be sure of is that one reason for this incredible fondness for and reliance on virtual communication, is because by the time a young person turns 18, cyberspace is already an old friend.

Consider what Kathryn Seiferth, a freshman at Tusculum College in Tennessee and a self-described "cyber girl," writes in the latest issue of Trinity Magazine, the parish magazine of Trinity Church, Wall Street.

She says, "I happily embrace my role as a child of an age in which nonverbal conversations are more common than not....This idea of being connected, despite distance, is a quality that defines my generation."

Young Seiferth's essay examines how "empathy" plays out in cyberspace. As you can probably tell, she thinks there is oodles of it there; just not always.

Hers is one of several essays in the current issue of Trinity Magazine, examining empathy in various contexts. Others include prison, the confessional, and the parish kitchen. There is also an article on "A Theology of Empathy."

Go here for the full "cyber girl" article.