My name is Matthew Turk and I suffer from a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy presenting with extremely weak muscles. This means my mobility is very limited and I am confined to an electric wheelchair. Due to these limitations obviously I cannot participate in normal activities, I’m sure Arsenal wouldn’t appreciate tyre marks from my electric wheelchair on the Emirates pitch. With special adaptations and programs I can however regularly use my computer and spend most of my time on there. Playing games, writing and chatting to my friends are my adventures in cyberspace. Everyone loves the Internet.
Different people, different reactions
The Internet. Two powerful words that make different people have contrasting reactions and emotions. For the teenagers and younger children the Internet has always been around, it opens so many possibilities for them. For the people in their twenties, the Internet was a revolution in the way we communicate ideas and even meeting new people. For the disabled, the Internet means freedom from our limitations and a chance to be seen as “normal”. Finally for the parents, the Internet instantly worries them for the safety of their children, whether it is a danger for their children to be involved with Internet multiplayer games or online chatting.
I am physically disabled with severe muscular limitations. We do live in a world where just that sentence can mean, if I am talking to someone online, they immediately stop talking to me. It is an unfortunate fact. Following this, I have learnt to withhold personal information until I have got to know the person. Those like myself, teenagers and younger people know that there are benefits to not revealing information. We have learnt that talking about hobbies, interests, school/college/uni, anything that is not personal information, can give a good impression of the person and whether to continue talking to them.
It’s good to talk
Normally throughout conversation online, you get to know someone’s personality. Rarely though do I disclose any information about my condition until I am about to add the person to my MSN. I get worried that if I do, and the person is “discriminatory”, the information will be passed on and so more people will not talk. Using this method, I can see who is actually worth talking to because if we have regular conversations after I have added them, my condition obviously doesn’t scare or phase them. There is a website I go on which has a nice little community of “regulars”. While I have never spoken to most of the regulars, the few that I have talked to were fine when I added them to MSN.
We want to break free
I guess people chat online for a very simple reason: it’s a place to talk to people without having stereotypes, because there are no labels online. We hide personal information about ourselves so that we have the potential to be just “anyone”. It gives us the freedom to get to know each other and who we are, without any judgements on appearances. Even celebrities have admitted that they chat online using an alias, just to be a normal regular person. I think if we don’t frown upon that and can understand it, then we can easily understand why the youngsters sometimes do too.
I have a friend in Canada and we talk every night. We first started talking on a particular website and as always I didn’t volunteer any information about my condition. Once we started talking on MSN I told her more, and she was fine about it all. This is why I think if people learn about the other person, just conversation about every day events, not revealing information isn’t that bad.
We should remember…
Of course there are dangers on the Internet, perhaps too many to write here. I do believe though, especially with my experiences online, that games and chat rooms are being monitored much better. We all know how some people behave online and how scary that thought is. If the rooms become even more closely monitored and multiplayer games strengthen their surveillance, Internet safety can improve.
What do you think?
So what have your online experiences been? Do you feel the Internet can be a safe place? Or are there too many dangers to ever feel comfortable online? Please add your comments…