Blog Pile

I Had Breakfast Today With a Guy I Met on the Internet

So the blog post title is aimed for the cheap reaction (“no, don’t go there”).

But it is true, I had breakfast today. And it was a chance to meet someone whom I’ve corresponded through mostly blog comments, going back to August, another runner who had found my sad tale of marathon attemptage. So we talked running, and life in other countries, and digital cameras. As it turns out, he was just back from Panama and headed soon back to South America.

“Oh, I was just reading about the big canal project in Panama,” I said, knowing he did writing for the engineering trades.

“Did you read that in Wired?” he asked.

“Yes, I did.”

“Well I wrote that story.” And it is true.

But back to the point of my silly cheap post title. There is so much fear flying about internet behavior. Yes, there are real predators, and naive kids you get exploited. It is not chicken feed, not trivial.

On the other hand, I firmly believe that the numbers of times people create meaningful, positive connections via the net far outweighs, by orders of magnitude, the horror stories of net predation that scream from tabloids, TV junk news, and every newspaper. Yet good stories are not news.

I’ve been making connections like this all my career. My 4 months of travel to Australia and New Zealand in 2000 were stops at people’s homes and schools generated just from my email request to visit. Even farther back in the mid 1990s, I posted a message on a multimedia developers listserv that I was traveling to the northwest to visit colleges, and a nice chap from Eugene offered to set up a visit at Lane Community College. We later laughed that we had not even communicated by anything but email until I knocked on his door. That was more than 15 years ago, and Tim is one of my closer friends now.

What might happen if trust evaporates? What kinds of world is that?

So my pithy thought today, riffing off of glass house dwellers and their throwing habits, was that people who live in houses built of Fear don’t throw Hope. Or Trust. Or Opportunity.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Those scary internet people. I recently spent the night INSIDE THE HOUSE of someone I met on the internet. That was pretty scary.

    Wait. No. It was a blast. Mass Media seems to forget that there are good people and bad people on the internet, just as in the real world. But showing scary things happening because of scary bad people helps boost the ratings, so they can sell more ads. Ad-supported news should be banned. That’s the single reason why Evil Scary Internet Pervs is such a hot topic (and also why we got to hear/see Anna Nicole Smith more than the war in Afghanistan)

  2. Amen.

    I spent a few months hitchhiking around the country back in college. If it weren’t for the strong the relationships I had developed on the internet, I would have had to beg for places to stay from strangers. Instead I bunked with tons of people that I had never met in person but knew extremely well nonetheless.

    The world is not as scary as the news makes it out to be.

  3. That’s cool and refreshing Alan. We just fought of a request to block video sites such as youtube and google videos on our Provincial Learning Network. The people in the trenches voted with common sense.

    It was really interesting to listen to Lee LeFever’s account at Northern Voice of his and his wife’s year-long adventure and how blogging made connections and opened up doors for them.

  4. Perhaps we need a flood of more positive stories echoed around the sphere, like Lee’s account that Gerry mentioned (which is a fabulous read)

  5. That’s why e-learning needs to be for both parents and children. Kids are now learning (or should be) about different ways to communicate on the internet, but a lot of parents are afraid because they don’t know how it works. If it comes out that Cyberbullying is on the rise, parents will definitely take the computer away. Their children won’t have to be scared of strangers, but of their friends as well.

    If it wasn’t for the internet, I would never have met my fiancé. That is definitely something positive for me. I am studying to become a teacher and the internet and e-learning is very much a part of my everyday life. What are parents going to do when their children’s classes are online? That is the wave of the future. And, will they stop their children from participating in classroom blogs and wikis? Technology is not the evil being most parents make it out to be. If only they would talk to their kids before they give them a computer, then they might not be so afraid of the bad things out there.

    Alan is right; we do need more positive stories. But unfortunately, bad stories are what help sell newspapers.

    One of my teachers has written a book regarding e-learning, and it is really good for parents who are afraid of the whole electronic age. If any one is interested, here is the source:
    Holmes, B. & Gardner, J. (2006). e-learning: Concepts and Practice. London: Sage Publications.

  6. Alan,

    the best internet-meeting analogy I’ve heard is that there are X million people online (pick a number that fits your interest, like English speakers or people in France)… and just like a city with X million people, there are places where it’s not too smart to go, and people whom it’s not too smart to choose to meet.

    And, like that city of X million, there are all kinds of people you benefit from meeting, and even greater numbers of people who wish you no harm whatsoever.

    Picking up on Beth’s comment, when my brother’s children were young, the family computer was in a corner of the living room. The kids could use it, but it was easy for the parents to see where they might be going, and to have the chance to talk with them about any mishap that occurred.

    I do think that preteens and young adolescents might not realize how easily people could glean too much about them from social pages — what fifteen-year-old wants to think about sleazebags? But that too is a chance for some communication between child and parent.

    It can be an awfully steep climb for a parent, though.

  7. For another good apple in the barrel… a colleague in my wife’s office recently found on the internet a great deal on a family car (it was a moderately priced vehicle, new condition, for sale in a small midwestern town where there were not many buyers).

    This couple flew from Phoenix a state in the middle of the country, the people selling the car met them at the airport, took them to dinner. They completed the deal, the buyers drove home to Phoenix, and found a message at their home from the sellers– they just wanted to know they got home safely.

    The internet is full of strange weirdos who do things like this.

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