Friday, February 02, 2007

Isolationist Activist

Wow, that's bizarre. I just had a realization. Okay, maybe it doesn't come as a surprise to those who know me or who consider the pattern of my life, but apparently, I'm an activist :). Not in any big way, but in a myriad of little ones. If a sign's unclear, if I find a bug in someone's software, if a policy is working against itself, I do something. My most recent act was to point out poor wording in the Gather.com privacy policy that could come across as big brotherish. Not that they'll necessarily change anything, but so many people don't say anything, assuming it won't make a difference when sometimes it does.

A friend mentioned that the system in her university of informing graduate students of their obligations was convoluted (like this sentence ;)) and useless. My immediate reaction was that she should do something about it. If not to help herself, then for all those poor souls coming after.

Now talking to strangers, getting people to listen, creating change? These are all things that give me the shivers. I'm an isolationist, an introvert whose dream for years was of living in a cabin in the woods with my cats cut off from everything and everyone. I'm not that isolationist anymore, but my circle hasn't grown all that wider and certainly doesn't cover standing on the court house steps with strangers waving a flag.

On the other hand, my mother taught me when I was about seventeen that if you have to do it more than once, automate. Okay, that was batch files and computers, but the principle remains and has been a guiding force for me. When something's broken, I'll help fix it, when people are wasting time, I'll pop in to offer a suggestion (yeah, not always gracefully received ;)).

I guess that sounds a bit like a busybody, but that's not really an accurate portrayal. It's more that life is too short to waste on inefficiency, and even if it isn't going to help me, I know it'll help people coming afterward.

Anyway, just thought I'd share this revelation. Apparently it's possible to be an activist, to make change, to better the world (okay, that's probably overstating it ;)), even when you're an introverted isolationist who'd prefer to leave the house for a forest than a movie theater any day. On the other hand, I am a geek and computers allow me to stay isolated and reach out all at once. Maybe the answer is that the Internet has changed the definition of activist, changed the profile so it can be expanded to include isolationists like me :).

Or maybe it's just another side of the grumpy isolationist. If I make it more efficient and clear, I won't have to deal with as many frustrated people? Who knows? Now I'm laughing at myself and wondering if I should even post this vague ramble but hey, you haven't seen a vague ramble from me in a bit, so here it is :D.

3 comments:

Holly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holly said...

Funny, but that's pretty much how I get by, too, being reclusive in person but fairly accessible online.

I do like the internet.

Margaret said...

Yeah, well, it's amazing how that accessibility can sneak up on you too. It always stuns me when people recognize me in other venues or pop up here on my blog out of the blue when I have no idea they've been reading :). Except when I mention that, I'm told I'm being stupid considering my work on FM and the way I answer questions when people need help and the like. Actually, my Gather entry below has been my first attempt at true, active promotion and it was hard, so I'm kind of grateful to have become a known entity. Maybe it'll work for me when my first book comes out :).