Great post from that most grizzled and charming of cyber-libertarians, John Perry Barlow, on the wonders of VoIP - to you, using broadband internet as your telephone provider. It seems, if you're using Skype to do this, that people can search out your name and ask to talk to you from anywhere in the planet. The other night, JP was sought out by two young Asian girls, wanting to practise their English on him... Yes, he anticipates our scepticism. But I find his characteristically idealistic spin more appealing:
The bottom line is this: they reached at random out into the Datacloud and found a real friend. And I feel like I have been graced with a real friend in both of them. Given the fact that I've been getting interesting messages from distant strangers since 1985, why do I think the big deal? Why is this different? Because these strangers have voices. There's a lot more emotional bandwidth in the human voice. I'm always surprised by the Meatspace version of someone I've only encountered in ASCII. I'm rarely surprised by someone I've only met on the phone. But one doesn't get random phone calls from Viet Nam or China, or at least one never could before.Skype changes all that. Now anybody can talk to anybody, anywhere. At zero cost. This changes everything. When we can talk, really talk, to one another, we can connect at the heart.
The potential of establishing a real emotional connection is exponentially advantaged. And I honestly don't think it would have been any different had they been guys. In the days since, I've received another random call from a guy in Australia. We talked, very entertainingly, for awhile. I'm glad to know him too. (He wasn't trying to practice his English. He actually seems to prefer his version. He was just doing it because he could.)