Net-phobes and old fogeys are eager to tell you how spending time online is antisocial, how it will alienate you from society and turn you into some kind of weirdo (or that you must be some kind of weirdo to begin with if you have an online life).

Well, there weren’t any phobes or fogeys with me last night as I sat in a Paris wine bar in the Latin Quarter being very sociable with a bright, delightful and adorable young Irishman I met online.

Don’t worry. It’s not what you might think.

Paddy is one of the founders of TheBigWordProject (which I blogged about here and here). While he was planning (I use the term loosely) one of those fabled Euro-youth trips around the continent this summer (the last summer before his final semester in grad school, where he’s getting a master’s in multidisciplinary design), he decided he’d try to meet up with as many “wordies” as he could.

That’s what he and his partner Lee call those of us who’ve bought words on TheBigWordProject. Just to refresh your memory, I bought francophilia, francophile, serendipity (which links to this blog), splendor, and geeks. A few weeks ago, Vincent bought chanson (yes, that’s an “English” word) for his newest music blog, 1mot1chanson. A few of my readers bought words too!

Over a couple of pints of beer, Paddy and I covered lots of ground, both real and virtual. We discussed cultures, politics, entertainment, human behavior, startup stuff… Turns out he’s also a huge Eddie Izzard fan. I told him Pushing Daisies is a must-see, and he said I have to read this book by Dave Gorman. I said the only Irish I knew was Erin go bragh, so he taught me how to say kiss my ass*. I mentioned that I’d noticed that charlatan points to Barack Obama’s website, and he told me president does too. I was glad to hear that.


Sometimes the harpy on my shoulder tells me I should act my age. That it’s inappropriate or even ridiculous to be doing things like laughing over beer with a 23-year-old who’s not my kid about a YouTube video we’d both seen (the one where a Lego Darth Vader acts out Eddie Izzard’s Death Star canteen bit).

But then I squash the harpy.

If I were like many people my age who use the Internet for not much more than e-mail and Amazon, I doubt I’d ever have crossed paths with the interesting, curious, and energetic people of all ages and backgrounds I’ve met in the last few years. If it weren’t for the Internet, I think it might be harder to connect with people who are 25 years older or younger than I am, since our frames of reference would be so different. But the Web is becoming the new great equalizer, spanning age and culture and connecting people like nothing ever has. As Claire Ulrich said in her article Plus belle, ma vie en ligne, the Internet frees you of the physiological, societal and geographical limitations that can hinder human interaction. The Web is tearing down walls faster than governments can build them these days, and that’s a good thing.

*Pog ma hon thoin (Paddy’s correction).