James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cyber Salvation

“The nation is becoming obese, because people would rather sit on their fat asses surfing the Internet instead of taking a walk.”

“Our social institutions are falling apart as people lead isolated, atomistic lives. As the famous book suggests, they would rather go ‘bowling alone’ rather than join a league. And this fracturing of community is dangerous for democracy.”

“Insults and lies by anonymous posters are destroying civility and marring democracy.”

We’ve all read statements like this. Many of us have said them. We watch a news report about a study with comments from academic experts, or we read a columnist’s take on social trends, and then we express these opinions in our own words.

But tell it to Nancy Makin.

Once a 700-lb shut-in, Makin, who's a political junkie, was given a computer by her sister. By surfing the Internet, she lost over 500 pounds in three years. Having found “virtual” friends who didn’t judge her by her appearance but rather by her mind and soul, Makin’s vicious cycle - over-eating followed by feelings of guilt and shame - ended. She lost the weight with no drugs, diets, or surgeries. Feeling better about herself because she was valued by others, and eager to get up in the morning for a busy day, she now had better things to do than gorging. Her mind was directed toward something other than self-destruction.

The Internet saved her life. In her anonymity, Nancy Makin found self-worth.

It reminds me of a documentary I saw on Star Trek conventions several years ago. James Doohan, who played Scottie, was a regular at these conventions. I don't remember the details, but he met one woman at a convention who was falling apart and considering suicide. He made her promise that they would meet again at the next convention. At the next convention, he made her make the same promise. And at the next one, the same promise, and again, and again, until her life did turn around.

James Doohan saved her life, but it wouldn't have happened it he had not played Scottie on Star Trek. But Star Trek was just a tv show, and we all know how terrible tv is for the culture, don't we? It shortens our attention spans and kills our brain cells.

But this is how society works. Some people become attached to, and find meaning from, things that other people do not care for or understand. There's no point in judging how other people find meaning and happiness in non-traditional communities. The important thing is to celebrate that they did find meaning and happiness.

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