Way back in the mid-90’s the author and astronomer, Clifford Stoll, who’d just written a book called Silicon Snake Oil, was part of a panel discussion on the future of the internet at a university here in Nashville. Stoll was very much an internet skeptic and while his book contains some real howlers—he predicted the internet would never be a place to buy and sell stuff because nobody’d give their credit card number to a website—his larger point that there are some experiences that technology will never duplicate or replace still holds up, and probably always will. Someone in the audience (not me) asked Stoll why, for example, we’d still need classrooms when videoconferencing meant we could have virtual classrooms. What, the person (not me), asked, would we be missing? And Stoll ran up to the guy’s seat and started shaking it and shouting, “This! One-on-one human communication between two people sharing the same space! That’s what we’d be missing!”
Yeah, he had a point, but you should also never, ever do that to someone because it’s just rude and you never know what the effect of getting up in someone’s grill like that could be.
I was reminded of that recently when for the first time ever I got to meet friend and fellow blogger Ann Koplow, whose blog title The Year(s) Of Living Non-Judgmentally reassured me she wouldn’t judge me, at least not too harshly
I’ve never met a fellow blogger before and it felt like meeting a celebrity. Of course I was worried I’d be starstruck and tongue-tied. Fortunately I was just starstruck and as we had lunch and milkshakes at the Elliston Place Soda Shop we covered a lot of ground, metaphorically, and then we covered a lot of ground actually as we moved on to Centennial Park where Ann met my wife and two of our dogs, and then we went into the Parthenon where Ann got to see the statue of Athena. And there’s another good metaphor, or simile: Ann is like Athena. She’s wise, far-seeing, and has a positive influence in the lives of others, although she’s not forty-two feet tall or covered in gold.
Meeting Ann was a great experience, one I hope to repeat. Getting to know people online can be a wonderful thing but nothing can ever replace one-on-one human communication between two people sharing the same space. And I’m glad we were able to do it without shaking chairs and shouting in anyone’s face.