I’ve found a whole new community in the past few months. I’ve done quite a bit of poking around on the internet (living in Alaska gives you a lot of time, especially during winter months, to sit in front of a computer screen). I’ve read a lot of posts on a lot of websites, and I’m always impressed by the amazing and seemingly endless variety of topics being addressed on line. I think you could google almost any word and find pages and pages of links to visit, whatever the subject.
But since I’ve plunged into the blogosphere, I’m finding new connections and a whole new digital community to explore and get to know. The site I use for my blog, WordPress.com, offers free hosting and a robust array of tools for bloggers. My guess is that most people using the site are like me: recreational writers, using it as an outlet for self expression. I know there are some professional writers using the site’s hosting service as well, and I suppose there is the potential for any writer to move into a professional realm, if there are enough readers and writing talent to support that move. That isn’t necessarily what I aspire to, although it would be an interesting development.
But the unexpected pleasure I’ve found is the ability to meet kindred spirits; to be touched, amused, and inspired by strangers, who, like me, are using this medium to chronicle bits and pieces of life. Just like the web in general, the variety of subjects people blog about is limitless, ranging from the profound to the mundane. I’m continually surprised by the things people notice and then write lengthy posts to describe, or complain about, or celebrate with words. Some writers share their most personal and intense experiences, and others have a gift for elevating some obscure scrap of life to a laugh out loud experience. I love it when I stumble across a post that brings a smile to my face or a nod of recognition: I know exactly what the author means, I couldn’t agree more, I get it…all those affirming phrases that come to mind to validate my discovery of someone who (at least in a specific posting) is just like me! Not that I think being just like me is the epitome of greatness…of course I’m open to others being themselves…maybe the reality is that I am just like them. But there is the human quality in each of us that enjoys the flash of recognition that opinions, emotions, observations are shared. Sometimes I have the “aha” experience of reading someone’s post and realizing they’ve captured some insight that I get too, but hadn’t quite articulated for myself.
As the old saying goes, it’s a brave new world. Sometimes, when I see glimpses of daytime TV, I think there is too much sharing. That’s why I like the internet so much. You can choose to read or skip content. Of course you can turn off the TV, no one if forced to watch programs that give too much information. But I feel a bit more empowered to be selective on line. If I find a blogger whose writing I enjoy, I can easily view earlier posts, I add a link to my blogroll, I can send a comment of appreciation to the author. Without being too personal and while keeping the comfortable distance of real space between all of us, we have the digital ability to reach out and touch, to nurture friendships, to feel safe in our environment, and yet have amazing freedom to explore.
Of course, in a different way, this ability to check out others from a distance is what all the on-line dating sites are all about. I’m not looking to meet a soul mate on line. But I appreciate the opportunity and the serendipitous joy of finding the kindred spirits out there, of broadening my horizon from my living room, and the pleasure of finding another way to experience the human connection that wasn’t possible just a few short years ago. For all the parts of me that are truly old-fashioned…I love old movies, old music, tradition, family values, faith, classics, standards…I love technology too. Thank you Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and all those computer geeks out there who make it possible (here’s a special nod to my brother, Brad) to enjoy the benefits of these inventions without having to understand the mechanics, and thank you to all the companies that through some magic of economics are able to offer services for free and make it possible to participate without financial risk.