Last Wednesday, the classes of AUM and OCU finally met. I already had a passing familiarity with the blogs of the AUM students—I admit I’ve always been biased toward the OCU student blogs—but now I could finally associate people with the postings I’d seen.
I suspect there is a widespread tendency to think we can know more than we really can about what a person is like from their online writing—or to at least create overly developed impressions of people from their behavior on the internet. I’m basing my suspicion on my own temptations to jump to conclusions about “internet people,” as well as on the unfortunate messes of insults that internet debates often degenerate into. These incidents seem to result from people making the mistake I find myself tempted to commit—making too many assumptions about the person on the other side of the connection.
It’s important to remember, of course, that while a person’s writing may demonstrate an important aspect of their personality, it is only one aspect and not their whole personality. As far as developing an accurate picture of them goes, reading their blogs is certainly is no substitute for knowing them in person. However, seeing someone in person and reading their blogs may provide a way to know them better than either of these methods of communication individually. People may not speak much in person yet write their thoughts in great detail (I count myself as one among this group).
I formed only vague impressions of the AUM students individually, although I definitely had some kind of “class picture” in mind for the whole group. I’m not sure what kind of picture it was, but it was pretty well shattered—neither for the better nor for the worse—by actually seeing (nearly) everyone in person.
My experience of seeing the students of AUM in person was interesting, though I wish I had gotten to know them somewhat better. Except for Liv by the Truth Daily and Great Spam, I never learned which students were which bloggers. All I knew was that the strangers in the room corresponded to the blogs I’d been reading. A curious combination of strangeness and familiarity.