The Internet gets a bad rap a lot of the time. And, quite honestly, it’s not too hard to see why. All you have to do is read some of your more, er, zealous friends’ political posts (whether they hold the same opinion as you or not!) on Inauguration Day to figure that one out. There is something about the freedom to say/type whatever you want and just WALK AWAY that removes some of the social boundaries most of us try to maintain in our face to face relationships and interactions.
But, on the other hand, the Internet is home to YouTube videos of kittens on Roombas. So.
I have been “online” for several years. I started this blog while pregnant with Xander, so it’s about three years old (ish). Before this one, though, I had an anonymous blog that was much the same: navel gazing and life stories and pictures of Tonks. It’s really in the last year and a half, though, that I’ve really started to invest more of myself in my online life. Joining in on Twitter conversations, keeping up with people instead of just lurking in the background. Being active, really, in cultivating relationships
(in so much as typing with lots of capital letters and parenthesis is active).
When I came home from The Blathering, I felt…discouraged is too strong a word, but it comes close. Not in the event, but in my (seemingly) inability to connect with the actual people behind these virtual relationships. My innate introvertedness and shyness, coupled with pregnancy exhaustion, made me feel that I had failed, somehow, at Getting It. But then I came home, fired up Twitter, and these little avatars with funny nicknames seemed so much more real. Because, DUH, they are real. They are real people, typing real things, just like I am. And not everyone I am friends with online attended The Blathering. It’s more that I started to get it a little more. Started to realize that some of these things are just the first steps to friendships. Going to a weekend long party with strangers was not going to result in me having a new BFF, but it might lay a step down in that direction.
And it’s so awesome. I care about these women (not to be sexist, it’s just that most of my online friends are women. OR SO THEY SAY). I care about their well being. I wonder what’s going on when someone 40+week pregnant is Twitter silent for a day (BABY?! Or nap?). I get excited when someone else’s kid conquers a long held fear. I’m invested, just as I am with the people I see in my day to day life.
And, let me tell you, I’m blown away by how rewarding and fun it is. I got a package of personalized to me gifts from someone I’ve never met. I was lamenting the lack of BabyLegs available on eBay, and had two separate people (who’ve also never met me) send me their old or unused ones. And it’s not about Getting Stuff. It’s more, hey, you need something? I have it! Let me help you! Let’s help each other. Let’s…be friends. Be a community. Be real.
And for all the eyerollingly annoying stuff online, for all the hateful comments, and uneducated memes and .gifs (STILL NOT SURE WHAT THIS IS), all the division and trolling and bullying and CRAP, there is also this. The real people. The people who just….live part of their lives online, but are just as real on the computer as off. There is kindness and friendship and love and, GAH, I know, cheesy gross pass the puke bucket, but it’s true, and it has made SUCH a difference to me this year.
Also. I mean, kittens on Roombas. How can the Internet be bad?