Ode to the Internet: On comics and connection

I worked for many years in a language school. It was fun. The world of Teaching English as a Foreign Language had once been filled with cut up bits of paper, mingles to music and sometimes (shhh!) text book slavishness. The arrival of I.T was like a bombshell. Interactive white boards, inter-student connectivity.

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While some of the teachers ran with the idea, others balked. As though they had arrived in a foreign place and been asked to lead a dance – to people born with the steps at the tips of their toes.

The etiquette of I.T in lessons was not yet set. One of the teachers said that using chat functions and instant messaging meant negotiating everything with the students, a case of figuring it out as they went along.

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The same goes for the codes of the Internet; visit Twitter and you will find a whole world of hashtags and abbreviations, in-jokes and shorthands. It’s intriguing the way social interactions are managed and adapted to online.

Here in Oman, internet connection means a lifeline to all that I hold dear. The eccentric side of British life has gained an appeal from 5000km away via Youtube.

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Last week I watched a documentary about the actor Kenneth Williams. As was popular in the 1970s, he kept a diary, a meticulously written record of events and feelings. Like many comics, Williams had a pained side to his life. I was struck by how many times he wrote about suicide, even after he gained success.

As I watched the programme, I wondered what would have happened if Kenneth Williams had lived now and kept a blog. Could he have been so candid about what he was going through? Would readers have picked up on his difficulties, shining light on a place shrouded in darkness and eventual tragedy. My feeling is that they would.

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It is for this, as well as other reasons, that when I hear the Age of the Internet bemoaned, I extend a protective arm around its cables and wirelessness.

On the worldwide web curiosity becomes a window into another’s world, virtual community arises where once there was just solitary interest. It’s a vessel for each of our contributions, the last true democracy. And a chance to cherish tragi-comic lives.

Please feel free to comment. I would love to hear about how the internet/technology has impacted your life. 🙂

(With thanks to Post Memes for the photo: ‘Next Level Street Art’ and neetalparekh for the photos ‘8 Audiobooks Every Social Entrepreneur Should Hear’ and ‘Berkeley Social Enterprise Law Symposium 2014’ )

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