Monday, June 15, 2009

My Community

I was getting a dose of the good ol' mother guilt on the phone the other day, about not getting in touch with an old family friend who moved to the same city as us awhile ago. As part of that deftly delivered mother guilt, all packaged up as what is good for me and tied with a bow of caring concern, was the suggestion that it is unhealthy, imbalanced, anti social etc. to have more friends on the computer than I do in "real life".

After I got off the phone, I was feeling a little growly and complaining to the DH. He, having a much cooler head than I, suggested that my Mom's concerns are borne from simple lack of knowledge about what computers now are and can do. I mean, we just got her emailing a little while ago. How could she possibly grasp the intimacy and immediacy that online communication has become?

I used the computer primarily for researching, gaming and keeping in touch with a few long distance friends through email up until a couple of years ago. Just before Deathly Hallows was due to come out, I found myself driven through desperate, DESPERATE need to seek out social contact on the computer. You see...I had no one to talk Harry Potter with. (OK, yes, N.E.R.D. It says so right in my profile. I'm not trying to fool anyone here.) Sure I knew people who also liked HP, but no one who wanted to spend an hour discussing the minute clues about which way Snape's character would go in the end, or hear me wax eloquent on my theories about the Draught of Living Death. (um, yeah. Way off on that one. ;) So I joined the Leaky Lounge, which led to Pottercast, which led to this video:

And I thought, who is this hilarious 15 year old and who is he talking to? It turns out he was Hank Green, a 20-something environmentalist and musician, doing a year long vlogging project with his even more hilarious (sorry Hank) brother John, an award winning YA author. Their videos are goofy, sometimes almost unbearably awkward, but warm and clever, and best of all they celebrate thoughtfulness, intelligence and "decreasing worldsuck". I eventually stumbled onto the forum that they created for their friends and fans (nerdfighters, hoo ha!), with no intention to post (I am not a joiner!), but found I just couldn't resist putting my own 2 cents into the conversations about literature, culture and world events that were taking place there.

When Hank and John ended their vlogging project (although they still make videos, just not daily), they set up a ning site for the more than 20,000 people of all ages and nationalities, that their call to honour brains, enthusiasm and just being nice had attracted. Not wanting to lose touch with the people I had met, I joined my first social networking site, and I met some new friends. Not "friends" quotation marks because I only know them on the computer, but friends who I am in contact with almost every day, who I have taken deep into my heart and my emotional landscape, who I share my worries and my triumphs with. Friends who see me for exactly who I am and like me anyway. It isn't just geography or time and chance bringing us together, it is common tastes, humour, purpose or values...or maybe just a commonality in how we see the world and ourselves. Either way, there is a beautiful sense of solidarity there, instead of a constant struggle to relate.

It seems I have spent my entire life nodding politely while other people talk hockey or hand bags or right wing politics. It has always been really difficult to find people who "speak my language", and care about the same things as I do. I have found some kindred spirits along the way, for whom I am deeply grateful, but there has been a lot of chaff with that wheat. I am now a grown up, with a family and responsibilities and little free time, and I won't spend my social energy on laboriously trying to will common ground into existence. I will spend it with my people, in my community, which just happens to be mostly on the world wide web.

To my gerds (girl nerds!), my old bosom pals and my new blogging and art community friends, I appreciate you. I appreciate you taking the time to read this and/or comment. I appreciate every word of friendship and encouragement. I appreciate every nerdy conversation about books and art, ourselves, politics, kids, Aspergers...Harry Potter. ;) Knowing that there are other people out there who share my views, my tastes, my fears and my joys has renewed a once flagging sense of optimism in the world. *sniff* I love you guys, I really do. I wish for everyone to have such a warm, supportive, inspiring group of people in their lives, whether right there in their own backyards or spanning several time zones and continents like my community does.


  1. This made me cry!! (in a good way, of course) What it comes down to is that community is awesome, no matter where and how you find it. And REAL community ~can~ be found online. The kind of community that will lead to eventually meeting in person, but being able to keep sharing lives over the distances needed to find those kindred spirits (those of us not into hockey, handbags and right wing politics - ha). You are a wonderful writer and person and yes, we love you EXACTLY the way you are :)

  2. Can I comment here? Hey! I'd always assumed you hadda be a membah like at the ning. I think mom should read this. Really. You didn't say anything bad about her but now that you've had time to gather your thoughts, you have a more cohesive answer to her stated opinion. Can't hurt. My favorite part and my sentiments exactly is "I won't spend my social energy on laborously trying to will common ground into existence." Yup. Thanks to my gerds, I no longer waste my social energy that way. Thank you guys! No wonder it was so exhausting. We get each other. We don't have to spend all that time in 'splaining where you're coming from. Whew. Or 'splaining references, "Oh sorry, Hagrid said that." :-) And yup, EXACTLY as you are. Ok now let's see what "select profile..." means.

  3. OK that was me, Deb obviously. Those other profile options are too labor intensive so Anonymous it is. Now maybe I can write some dirty stuff. :-)

  4. What loverly comments! Yay!

    NG community is awesome. I am really glad that you're a part of mine. :)

    And I sooooooo knew it was you Deb! Even without the 2nd comment. :) And yes, no more working so hard to try to force a friendship to grow in barren soil. I am old enough now to have earned my "get out of jail free" card for having to make friends with everyone. I'll make nice, but I won't waste time trying to make friends when there isn't that common ground. And I am a bit of a weirdo (but the very nicest kind of weirdo ;)...common ground ain't always so easy to find. But yay for gerds!

    And thanks for the comments, when you make such a grand declamation of a blog post it feels lonely hanging there without a comment or two...thanks.

  5. And re: my mom reading this, I wouldn't mind and I don't think she'd be offended, but although I have sent her the link to my blog a couple of times, she's just not that interested in reading it.

  6. Yes, exactly! It's odd that I have these two lives now, the "real" one I wander around in feeling like a misfit on my best days, and the online one filled with interesting and amazing people who help me feel normal on my worst days.
    There's an honesty here, in these written words, that is missing in my real life. There's a freedom too, in taking my time to type it out and get it right, what I'm trying to say. Not many of my real friends have that kind of time, or could understand or accept what I'm trying to express, so I usually suppress or avoid. Not here. Maybe I overindulge myself, rambling online, maybe I spend too much time staring at this screen. But I don't care. I love the crazy like me friends I've found here, and I really needed to feel that I was not alone in the world, in my thoughts and hopes and worries. I appreciate you too, E, you're inspirational to say the least. Can you imagine how many kinds of crazy we might be now were it not for the mental spa of the internet and the connections we've made online? My social life is so very rich now, and I don't have to get out of my jammies or worry what to wear!
    Talk to you soon....

  7. Ha, about your last comment, my family doesn't care to visit any of my online sites - ning, blog, flikr - either, what does that mean? I'm hoping they're too busy, not disinterested. *sigh*

    Their loss I tell myself.

  8. Exactly! "A rich social life without having to get out of your jammies..." That's got to be the best kind of social life of all! And the time to ponder and carefully craft a response is such a beautiful thing. It's like all the friendship sans stress and obligation. And my aspie side sho' likes that.

    My Mom's not too busy in a time sense, but she is otherwise engaged mentally. I don't take it too personally...anymore. Besides I have the lovely Elizabeth, my sistah-friend and BFF, who has read every single post to represesnt my RL fam here in the ether world.

    But, yup, their loss for sho'.

  9. you have eloquently expressed many of the things I feel as well. thank you. i don't always comment, but i do love your writing style and art, and your commenters are often entertaining as well.

    I have to admit when I started reading the comment from Anonymous i thought, "that's Deb!"

  10. Talk about writing style! When everyone knows who you are, before you even sign your name. Yup, "that's Deb"! Awesome.

    Thank you for being here and reading FoM. :)

  11. it's like you all wrote for me--nerdlepathy for sure, or more aptly, gerdlepathy.

    i genuinely love you gerds, yes i said it LOVE, and i too am so glad to have found so many kindred spirits, love and support, not to mention fun!!

    do keep letting us know of your blog posts E!!!

  12. I come back and read this every once and a while and tonight I read it to Scrunch and am hanging on the line about "willing common ground". Wow, has it hit a spot for me. How much power do I think I have that I can "will common ground" and yet, I've been trying to do just that for years. Why don't I try to will the clouds to be green or the moon to really be made of cheese, or something that would be entertaining.

    Thanks again, for posting and for being exactly the incredibly articulate person you are.

  13. i like furst, came back to re-read your lovely blog that i could so have written myself. oh e you rock!!


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