How many hours do you spend alone online a day and, at the end of the day, do you have anything real you can hold in your hand or is everything you experienced only stored in the core of your virtual existence? When you are online at home or at work what are you doing and in what percentage? Reading? Writing? Watching something? Buying something? Something else? What things do you do online that requires an ongoing payment or subscription?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about Paved Plantations and how a slavery mentality moved from the fields and into the cities.

I wonder if there is another sea change bobbing on the horizon where Virtual Plantations will one day be the new prison for disenfranchised communities. In my article, Urban Wilds, I wrote this:

The history of the development of America has been one of extreme Westward movement: We want to get away from each other; we want land of our own; we need private space. Suburbia is a perfect example of this sort of “lazying out” from the city core – but what happens when suburban areas become tighter and paved and they transmogrify into Megalopolises as geographer Jean Gottmann suggested in 1961 or the ever-infringing Edge City as Joel Garreau described in his 1991 monograph of the same name.

…and now I begin to wonder if the online revolution is yet another form of psychically moving away from each other to stake a further claim for a plot of space that can only be tended and never really owned by any of us.

Later this week we will discuss online relationships and friendships. Today’s post centers solely on the individual living alone online.

42 Comments

  1. Hmmm 😕 You’ve got some heavy stuff here today David!
    I’m not sure what my total time would be. I know it’s a lot. Hell, I’m sitting here right now at work sneaking in a moment to put my two cents in the discussion. *looks over shoulder, both ways*
    At the end of the day, however, I usually feel enlightened by my online experiences. I’m stimulated by the conversation, and I’m motivated to continue what I’m doing on my site. I check my admin page consistently through the day to check for comments. Perhaps I’m looking for validation.
    But despite the blogging buddies I’ve made, I don’t believe I’m pulling away from the flesh and blood friends I still have. I still want to socialize, have parties, go out to dinner, although I do believe that more of me is on display through my blog. But that’s understandable because no matter how much time I spend with my friends, I may never get around to telling some of those stories.
    ❗ Perhaps that’s why I write. ❗
    Gee, hope that wasn’t too long-winded. 😯

  2. I should keep track of the number of hours I spend online, because I am sure it accounts for a lot of time. I’d say that the majority of my time online is reading. If I wasn’t online, I’d probably be curled up reading a good book. Part of the online reading is geared toward finding inspiration for my blogging. The other part is pure curiousity. There’s a certain serendipity that occurs when surfing the net.
    I find that my life is enhanced by my online experience. I make a point to reach out, rather than just consume. When I spend time blogging, I feel that I am contributing something to society. I never feel guilty about my time spent online, whereas sometimes I feel like I’ve wasted time that could have been done doing something better when watching television or movies.

  3. Great responses already. For me I think I really do learn a lot and experience a lot as well. I’ve always been really shy and I think I could have some kind of social anxiety so online is the most comfortable way for me to communicate. I think it could someday make society very distant. If I never had to make another phone call for the rest of my life that would be just fine by me.

  4. Great responses already. For me I think I really do learn a lot and experience a lot as well. I’ve always been really shy and I think I could have some kind of social anxiety so online is the most comfortable way for me to communicate. I think it could someday make society very distant. If I never had to make another phone call for the rest of my life that would be just fine by me.

  5. I spend a lot of time reading online. Maybe, not reading books online, but finding leads to authors that are interesting and will provoke and stretch the mind. I don’t like reading the same stuff, meaning writers with a simliar political, social or world view simliar to mine.

  6. I spend a lot of time reading online. Maybe, not reading books online, but finding leads to authors that are interesting and will provoke and stretch the mind. I don’t like reading the same stuff, meaning writers with a simliar political, social or world view simliar to mine.

  7. Carla — Thanks Carla! I don’t want to talk about people and community yet. 🙂 Can you give me your percentage breakdown and discuss the subscription issue?
    Chris — It’s interesting how we can so easily move between reading moves from the virtual to the real. The reading event is etched in within us. I like your blogging philosophy. Do you feel the web expands or compresses your time?
    Robin — What about the idea of ownership I mention? Do you own your Virtual Plantation life or are you just tending it for others?
    Jeff — Hmmm… I’m surprised you read this blog! 🙂

  8. Carla — Thanks Carla! I don’t want to talk about people and community yet. 🙂 Can you give me your percentage breakdown and discuss the subscription issue?
    Chris — It’s interesting how we can so easily move between reading moves from the virtual to the real. The reading event is etched in within us. I like your blogging philosophy. Do you feel the web expands or compresses your time?
    Robin — What about the idea of ownership I mention? Do you own your Virtual Plantation life or are you just tending it for others?
    Jeff — Hmmm… I’m surprised you read this blog! 🙂

  9. I’d like to believe I own my Virtual Plantation Life very much…it’s all for me and nobody else. I don’t post on my blog for anyone but myself but I enjoy sharing it with others that find it interesting. Am I understanding this correctly?

  10. I’d like to believe I own my Virtual Plantation Life very much…it’s all for me and nobody else. I don’t post on my blog for anyone but myself but I enjoy sharing it with others that find it interesting. Am I understanding this correctly?

  11. Well, I don’t pay for any subscriptions right now. I was paying for a freelance job site, but I wasn’t finding or getting anything I wanted, so I let it drop. I’m a member of several fan board sites, mainly having to do with entertainment. I have paid for advertising from Blog Explosion, but just the minimum amount.
    I would say 40% of my time is spent reading blogs, 30% writing/blogging and 20% reading entertainment sites and 10% watching movie trailers or other entertainment video.
    And I’ll just repost the last paragraph from my first comment when we discuss people and community! 😀

  12. Well, I don’t pay for any subscriptions right now. I was paying for a freelance job site, but I wasn’t finding or getting anything I wanted, so I let it drop. I’m a member of several fan board sites, mainly having to do with entertainment. I have paid for advertising from Blog Explosion, but just the minimum amount.
    I would say 40% of my time is spent reading blogs, 30% writing/blogging and 20% reading entertainment sites and 10% watching movie trailers or other entertainment video.
    And I’ll just repost the last paragraph from my first comment when we discuss people and community! 😀

  13. Robin — So let’s look at owning things on the web in the longer view. When we purchase a plot of land it belongs to us. We are deeded. We can pass down ownership from generation to generation. Does the same metaphor transfer to the online world or are we always only renters? Network Solutions will sell you (rent, really) a 100 year domain name registration. Is that the same kind of ownership we stake in physical land acquisition? I am using “acreage” and “domain name” as synonymous ideas in this discussion with you. The space you claim in your physical neighborhood can belong to you, in theory, for as long as you wish to own it. Can the same be said of the effort put into your domain name? Or is the entire intention of the web to be virtual and vanishing where everyone owns everything and nothing together?
    Carla — Thank you for your numbers! Fascinating. You are a Blogging Babe! Oh, and no cutting and pasting between comments allowed! :mrgreen:

  14. Robin — So let’s look at owning things on the web in the longer view. When we purchase a plot of land it belongs to us. We are deeded. We can pass down ownership from generation to generation. Does the same metaphor transfer to the online world or are we always only renters? Network Solutions will sell you (rent, really) a 100 year domain name registration. Is that the same kind of ownership we stake in physical land acquisition? I am using “acreage” and “domain name” as synonymous ideas in this discussion with you. The space you claim in your physical neighborhood can belong to you, in theory, for as long as you wish to own it. Can the same be said of the effort put into your domain name? Or is the entire intention of the web to be virtual and vanishing where everyone owns everything and nothing together?
    Carla — Thank you for your numbers! Fascinating. You are a Blogging Babe! Oh, and no cutting and pasting between comments allowed! :mrgreen:

  15. Well then, I’ll have lots of time to expound on it even more in my head! 😉
    And on the note of having that piece of virtual real estate, I was updating my Technorati stuff last night and I clicked on the link to see the top 100 blogs. One of my faves, dooce, was number 8. That site will more than likely stay synonymous with Heather Armstrong, the author of the blog.
    Makes me want to consider “renting” a homestead for my own blog, just to say I Am the Sappy Chick!

  16. Well then, I’ll have lots of time to expound on it even more in my head! 😉
    And on the note of having that piece of virtual real estate, I was updating my Technorati stuff last night and I clicked on the link to see the top 100 blogs. One of my faves, dooce, was number 8. That site will more than likely stay synonymous with Heather Armstrong, the author of the blog.
    Makes me want to consider “renting” a homestead for my own blog, just to say I Am the Sappy Chick!

  17. That’s very cool, Carla! So let’s use Heather Armstrong as an example. In 100 years what will happen to her domain and her site? Will it become a library of dead ideas or will someone else inherit her Homestead and perhaps remove every trace of her? Does Heather own her space and time or it is all just a virtual renting of a series of moments? Is Heather’s site anything without her? Land is land — it doesn’t care who owns it.
    I definitely think you should get your own domain name — but think bigger than just Sappy Chick. That can be sub-domain — but you need a seriously named portal for all your talents.
    Oh, and being a Blogging Babe has nothing to do with how you look! We are surprised by your shallowness!
    :mrgreen:

  18. That’s very cool, Carla! So let’s use Heather Armstrong as an example. In 100 years what will happen to her domain and her site? Will it become a library of dead ideas or will someone else inherit her Homestead and perhaps remove every trace of her? Does Heather own her space and time or it is all just a virtual renting of a series of moments? Is Heather’s site anything without her? Land is land — it doesn’t care who owns it.
    I definitely think you should get your own domain name — but think bigger than just Sappy Chick. That can be sub-domain — but you need a seriously named portal for all your talents.
    Oh, and being a Blogging Babe has nothing to do with how you look! We are surprised by your shallowness!
    :mrgreen:

  19. So you are saying…is it possible to really own anything online such as a domain? You are saying that owning a domain is more like renting than owning. It’s a good point (if I’m following) that this precious space we hold as our own (our blogs) in the long run are not really ours for life. Ugh…sorry I can’t seem to really give anything to this conversation today…

  20. I’m online all day unless I’m camping or traveling (even then I log on at internet cafes). Even when I’m teaching or practicing the violin, my computer is usually on and online (thanks to the wonder that is comcast cable). I can use the internet while teaching – there are fantastic videos for teaching at violinmasterclass.com.(which is free for the moment).
    I spend most of my time researching what interests me. I only spend about 10 – 20% of my time writing (since I’m not really a writer, and it isn’t my main goal). I look at such a wide variety of sites that it’s hard to break it all down. Japanese blogs and Japanese commercials are my latest craze.
    I will tell you what I pay for (that I know)! I pay for livejournal (that was before I found wordpress). I pay for flickr pro. I pay a little bit for blogexplosion which is just a vanity thing (ugh). I paid for Car fax when we bought our car.
    I don’t pay for any domain names. I don’t know why but I just can’t bring myself to pay for a domain name. So for that reason I guess I don’t have the Virtual Plantation thing to be handed down, although I feel that all of that content that I’ve been writing for 6 years is still “my land”.
    Recently I have been reconstructing my old site and it is quite astonishing! It was all on floppy disks and I had it put on a CD, and now I am uploading it gradually as I fix the links (now here is where the beauty of a domain name strikes me since the links I’m repairing are all to my specific old urls which do not exist anymore).
    Dooce‘s daughter Leta is so famous that she might step into the dooce domain. Domains passed down generation to generation, what a concept! By then we’ll definitely have to pay to view dooce!

  21. Hi suzanne!
    Your comment is thoughtfully rewarding and deeply written, thank you!
    I enjoyed visiting the sites you mention. I am bothered, as you already know, by Dooce’s images of her child published online.
    You have so many blogs! You have Lucy’s, WordPress, Roxr, LiveJournal and now Comcast! Are there any others? I love it that you backed up your work. That was wise and smart. Oh, how I wish I saved all my previous web design “looks” for all my sites.
    I am surprised you haven’t moved up to a domain name of your own. That seemed like a natural choice years ago! 🙂
    It’s interesting you feel your content is your land. I think the rented server is your land and the content is what is built on your land.

  22. I know I spend more time online than I probably should but it’s useful and productive. I spend about 9 hours at the hospital doing work and flipping over to the net for library searches, grant submissions, travel searches, etc. I do 4 hours of work at home 5 days a week which is soley internet based for my part-time job. Plus I take online classes which I had off for the past 2 semesters but will be back in next semester. I do read alot of my news online as I don’t get the real paper everyday and probably wouldn’t read it anyways. Then, I frequent a political forum and a fun forum a couple times of day and I go to the forum that I own a little bit more frequently to make sure things are okay. I also have a my own blog and a fun blog on blogspot. Eh is that enough for 24 hours yet? Sheesh.
    Oh, and my speed has been bumped up to 4 megs (using Knology), I could pay for 7 but what’s the point really as I don’t do gaming online. I do quite a bit of shopping online for computer parts when I have to built or fix friends pcs, books, electronic stuff, etc. and then the usual domain names/hosting stuff.
    After all of that my main purpose for the pc is spider solitaire, it irks me that the computer is winning more times than me and I just can’t have that 😛

  23. Thanks David (Off topic question: where it says “You may kiss David W. Boles below” and then the large photo of your icon under “Info” – is that guy on the left in the green image you?) :mrgreen:
    I’m glad you liked the links. OK – that makes sense. The content is what I have built on the land. Like a huge mobile city. Yes, a domian name is making sense. I’ve been exploring a Japanese typepad site that is organized exactly the way you were mentioning to Carla. Mari’s Watashi to Tokyo
    Maybe that’s what I need, a domain…

  24. Hey hterry!
    You have a big life online! Online database work does make that kind of tedious research task a little faster and better compared to 15 years ago. I also read my daily newspaper online now.
    Your Knology setup sounds good and dynamic. I have 3MB download here that’s really more like 2.5MB but that’s plenty fast enough for text work and blogging and browsing.
    Your point on solitaire and your computer is fun and straight on target!

  25. suzanne!
    Yeah, that’s me — Mr. Green!
    :mrgreen:
    You need a domain of your own! The domain name should encompass all of you and not just part of your with links then to all your blogs and other websites to you in the specific veins. That main entry point domain name should then also become your main email address for contact as well forever.
    Do it up! :mrgreen:

  26. I grew up in the country and live within 1/8 mile of my old home place, my mother played the piano at church, we were always having someone coming over to practice for a special.
    I don’t know of anyone who does that today, if they practice its with a tape or CD at home or at church.
    Yes, we in America are drawing apart. We have got to busy to socialize as we once did. We are in to big of a rush I suppose.
    But, could part of that be the children nowadays are always practicing and or playing some kind of ball.
    Sad, look at the changes in the last 30 years, imagine how it will be in another 30 years if the earth last that long.
    Oh, could part of it be crime? Had a neighbor who was sick and stayed home. A man tried to break into his house. He heard something, went to a window, there he was looking him in the face taking the screen of that very window.
    The man took off running to his pickup that was parked back in the woods, dropped the screen as he got in his truck. He got away, but they know who he is. A drug abuse who breaks in homes looking for narcotic pain meds. He’s on parole, but will soon be back in prison once again.
    But, for those who can not get out and around, disabled and such, I know that this computer age and the wide world of internet is much company, as the CB was several years back.
    May God Bless,
    Jerry

  27. Hi Jerry!
    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. You’re right that the quiet life in Small Town America is fading. My grandfather lived in a village of 300 people in the middle of Nebraska. I spent a lot of time there growing up and I miss the calm feeling of absolutely nothing happening. I memorialized the place in this article:
    http://goinside.com/98/7/nl.html
    Technology can be inviting and including — especially for the disabled — and I certainly applaud the advances made over the last ten years to bring the hinterlands into the mainstream without all the direct threat of big city living — even though there may be unsavory tastes of it all here and there as you so clearly describe.

  28. Excellent response, Chris, thanks for popping back in here to provide even more detail about your internet day. I, too, surf for inspiration and blog to keep my writing skills sharp. Blogging breaks up long days of research and writing and it is always a gift to see a beautifully written and expansive comment published here while I’m withering away and in the dank and dark recesses of the writing mind. 🙂

  29. Excellent response, Chris, thanks for popping back in here to provide even more detail about your internet day. I, too, surf for inspiration and blog to keep my writing skills sharp. Blogging breaks up long days of research and writing and it is always a gift to see a beautifully written and expansive comment published here while I’m withering away and in the dank and dark recesses of the writing mind. 🙂