The week of November 22, 2015

Thanks to the Internet

By Jesse Hicks

In the United States, this is the season in which many of us talk about giving thanks, being generous, and taking time to reflect on the things that matter most. Granted, that sounds very idealistic and maybe takes a back seat to copious turkey consumption, but it’s the thought that counts. So in the spirit of grateful reflection, in this issue of the Kernel, we’re offering thanks for the kinds of interactions we could only have thanks to the Internet.

Selena Larson writes about crossing the bridge between online friendships and IRL friendships. She notes that even though we might spend days talking to one another via Twitter, there’s something still fundamentally unknown about the person on the other end of the DM. And we still often want to draw a boundary, to say that online life is something other than real life—that friendships there require the diminishing adjective, “online.” But, she argues, though we might burnish our online personae even for our would-be friends, and worry that they are doing the same, making friends online can happen much more easily for some people. And It can be the first step in a fuller, “realer” friendship.

Giving thanks for human connections we couldn’t otherwise have.

But the Internet doesn’t just help us forge new relationships. It also helps us maintain old ones, as Nico Lang details in his story about how Skype can bring families together despite geography. That’s especially important during the holidays, as travel costs make it particularly hard for young people to visit their loved ones. Skype and other apps like it can put families in the same room, virtually if not physically. Again, we might take that for granted, but Lang reminds us just how powerful it can be.

Finally, I talk about the experience I had letting a homeless man stay with me after reading his plea for help on the “anonymous social network” Whisper. It was, to say the least, complicated. It made me reconsider some deeply held beliefs, while also reaffirming others. And it’s an experience I wouldn’t have had without the Internet.

Enjoy the issue.