More questions than answers

The LA Times yesterday had an insightful article on the role of the Internet in people’s lives. The article, titled “Go ahead, just ask a question”, attempts to explain what normal people are doing online at all hours of the day and night. One man says that he

“spends a couple of hours every night answering questions like these posed on, where members post queries on topics as diverse as philosophy, math, dancing and religion. He’s offered more than 1,000 pieces of advice since stumbling onto the website a year ago.

“I’m a wealth of useless knowledge,” he said. “I have more contact with some of these people than I do with my own brothers and sisters.”

Spending more time online helping out strangers and letting your familial relationships fall by the wayside? I don’t get that. Or is it a matter of such people having such horrible familial ties, and thus filling in some sort of emotional void? The people who dedicate hours upon hours (even after a long day at work!) giving out advice are often-times doing great work, giving out needed guidance, and very altruistically. But the addiction aspect of it just rubs me the wrong way, as illustrated by the following:

“I get withdrawal symptoms when I don’t go on,” said Jacinta Rachel, a biology student in Liverpool, Britain, who spends up to five hours a day fielding questions on Answerbag under the moniker “Carmella.” “Like if you leave home for a while, you can feel quite homesick — that’s the feeling I get.”

Leaving the internet can yield emotions in one like leaving your family?! OK, I am going to make a really uneducated guess here, but let me go out on a limb and say: There is something wrong with you. Really! Spending up to 6 hours per day online “helping people out” is weird. Do you know why I think so? Because there are people probably just down the street from you who could use your help. Because yes, Allah gave you a derrière to sit on and fingers to type with…but He also gave you legs to walk with and a mouth to talk with–can’t we use all our gifts in equal proportion? Because the homeless shelter has people much more in need of your time and energy than the people who are just one click away.

Am I alone in thinking that this is weird to the max? Am I alone in thinking that this is the easy way to gain kudos for volunteerism? (Its ok, I can handle the truth–after much kicking and screaming ) )


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