I was watching an old Hepburn & Tracy movie over the holidays, Desk Set, all about replacing a crack reference librarian with a computer, back in the 50s. And it occurred to me: she was right to worry for her job. Because the computer couldn’t do her job, but the internet certainly does. Need to know all Santa’s reindeer? Google! Need to learn the tune to a song? YouTube! Need to reserve a book at the library? There’s an app for that!
But then I thought: hey, wait a minute, she was wrong, too! Because the internet DOES work, but it only works for one reason: people. Every bit and byte on the web was put there by an individual, on purpose, because he or she had a question and wanted it answered. My writing and my videos exist solely because I love sewing and I meet people daily who want to learn sewing, and there is a question that needs an answer. And so: a blog post! a glossary entry! a video!
Yesterday as I was leaving church, I was stopped in the lobby by a woman I’d never met before (hi, Laurie!!), and she introduced herself as one of the quilters who is making the Murder Mystery Quilt this year. And I said, jokingly, that I’m always surprised when I meet someone I know from the internet in person at my local church–but it’s a large congregation, so really, I shouldn’t be surprised at all, right? Except: in the midst of that large congregation, surrounded by people who all presumably share similar values, I might never have met this woman and her husband–if it hadn’t been for the internet. It’s like a little bit of glue that brings people together, like a lasso that reaches out into the world and draws people into circles of shared interests.
The internet wouldn’t work without people. People asking, and people answering. It is a social medium, even the parts of it that don’t seem social. It doesn’t take the place of seeing a person and looking them in the eye and learning to read body language. But it enhances it, in the way that reading a great novel or learning a great poem feeds our relationships and makes them deeper. For those of us who sew, and who so often labor in a room apart, the internet gives us a medium through which to connect with others, to make a friend, to feel understood, and to share our skills in places where they are most needed–all in a manner we may never have discovered otherwise.
As Spencer Tracy’s character points out at the end of Desk Set to Kathryn Hepburn, the computer (or in our case, the internet) “can only repeat information that’s been fed into it by the human element.” It’s the HUMAN part that makes it work. It is the heart we put in, the voices of our own hearts, that make it matter.