IRC: The Double-Edged Sword|
"Chatting," a concept that has typically been mentioned with a bit of ridicule and maybe some pity by mainstream society, is starting to become less so. Long thought of as the realm of geeks, perverts, and social outcasts even when "surfing" the web itself was coming into vogue, chatting hasn't really transcended the boundaries of geekdom as much as the boundaries have been re-defined. If you're a teenager or college kid, chances are the computer plays a big part in your daily routine. Writing papers, doing projects, looking up information, communicating with friends, it can all be done on the multi-purpose device that is the personal computer. You use a computer for a lot of stuff, so do your friends. So if you're all on there, why not chat with each other right? Nothing "geeky" about talking to your friends. Instant Messengers are the more popular way to do this, but there is still IRC...
People who enjoy IRC (not counting the perverts and deranged people, who as much as I'd like to deny it, do exist in big numbers on most IRC networks), are taking the experience in the preceding paragraph and turning it into a hobby. Nothing wrong with hobbies, right? Whether you're playing some type of sport, hitting the bars/clubs every weekend, taking ballet, or participating in an online community, you're still socializing and interacting with people. They're all fun, and worthwhile activities as long as you don't overdo them.
Unfortunately, its a little more common for people to OD on their IRC/online hobby than it is for other activities. I myself struggle with that, and I know many others that do. Trying to make IRC do too much for you is where the problems start. It can't replace day to day interactions, love, accomplishment, etc. It takes on an almost soap-opera'ish feel when you open your eyes to the 'romances' and the cliques and the feuds, and all that stuff.
Take an example from me. I tend not to distribute pictures of myself online because I don't see it as relevant to my view of IRC. I also tend to make some enemies because I don't usually play the type of games that others play. Well recently, one of these "enemies" (heh) gets ahold of my picture from some guy I made the mistake of giving it to awhile back, and decides he is going to really stick it to me by distributing my picture to all sorts of random people. Childish? Yes. Hard to Understand? No.. its an example of taking IRC too seriously. I have 'wronged' this individual and hurt his online pride, so this type of action is necessary to pay me back. Its the type of thinking that can sour the whole experience.
Just to wrap things up, I want to say that my conclusion has been to keep things in perspective. IRC as a hobby is nothing to be ashamed of, it doesn't mean you're some loser or reject of society. People who still persist in saying these things don't understand what they criticize. Yet you can make what they say to be true if you think that IRC holds the answers to all your wants. Be polite, but don't get too worked up when you find people who aren't. Have fun, but don't try to force it. Most of all, learn as much as you can about the internet, computers, and especially the people and all the unique views and perspectives that exist out there in the world.
Be on the lookout for my next interview with IRC'ers and their thoughts on what IRC means to them. Ciao!
Thursday, August 09, 2001