An article appeared today in the Washington Post about an American University class assignment that forced the students to go on a 24-hour "media fast." This meant using no computers, video games, cell phones, mp3 players, or any other gadget for a day, for any purpose. Along with the loss of entertainment and immersion in information that accompany these tools, the students saw that it impacted their far-reaching social circles as well.
Several students realized their circle of daily friends included many who were nowhere near them geographically. "I found it hard because a lot of the people I talk to aren't in my immediate area, so they didn't relate to it," said one student.
Others realized the Internet helps them negotiate relationships.
"I started thinking about the idea that we've given up responsibility by relying on technology because it's a lot easier to send a text message to say I'm sorry," said one student.
Bloggers clearly have a lot in common with these so-called "millennial" college students. Access to people writing online from around the world can lead to connections that have nothing to do with geography and everything to do with important components of friendship: shared experience, connection, humor, and empathy.
The Internet has been abuzz with tales of friendships formed online, following last week's BlogHer conference, noted by the organizers to be the largest gathering of bloggers in history. Far beyond any swag or cocktail party chatter, the strength of the event lies to a great extent in the opportunity for long-time online friends to reconnect and the potential for new bonds to form.
This could sound warm and fuzzy, and sometimes it is, I guess. Mostly it's strong and funny, intellectually and emotionally comforting, and clearly, deeply necessary to many people who use the Internet as a gathering place for words, images and other media that allow the sharing of personal and professional lives.
It's interesting to watch people who are used to communicating via a computer across thousands of miles all of a sudden meet face to face, especially when they're in a session and realize that the person making the comment across the room is that "blog friend" they've never met. It's equally interesting to see people who have never met before form bonds the old fashioned way - in person - whether they've read each others' words or not, knowing that after three days they'll return to locations that are in most cases too distant for a regular coffee date.
So what does this all mean? Who are your friends online? And what do they have to do with your real life?
It takes a while for me to be able talk about something so meaningful as the BlogHer gathering. So for now I'll just write what I blurted out when my therapist asked me about the conference yesterday:
"Say there was a huge earthquake or other disaster ... this is the way my mind works–and one reason I need therapy ... and that you found yourself trapped in a basement for days on end, maybe weeks on end, with a group of people. This group of bloggers would be the group I would want to be trapped with. It's the one group I'd actually look forward to being trapped with."
(Check out her post for a great accompanying graphic.)
Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust thinks it has to do with the ease of communication - arguably a building block of any positive relationship.
What happens at these little gatherings some men may ask? TALK! Lots and lots of talk filled with ideas and inspiration or just being goofy. I was amazed at how fast conversation went from "Hi" to "Deep." These are women with backbone and opinions - some long held, others just formed over cocktails. One thing is for sure, they aren't waiting for anyone to give them permission to speak freely.
I didn't set out to be a card collector, but as I look over this stack I'm stunned at how many insightful women I intersected with. No wonder I came away so energized.
She Likes Purple intends to go to the conference next year, and I think she'll find herself much more comfortable than she knows.
This week I've stumbled upon so many new bloggers who share their thoughts on real issues and real life in a very witty and refreshing way. I have to regularly resist the urge to send a mass e-mail out to all the women I've found and sort of pathetically beg, WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND? I MAKE AN AWESOME RASPBERRY COLADA, AND I'LL MAKE YOU PITCHERS FULL IF YOU SAY YES! AND I'LL BE A GOOD LINKER TOO! (I resist because I do realize desperation isn't the most endearing quality in a friend, so instead I clap my hands in the safety of my own home, while thinking: It's as if she's finally figured out how to say exactly what I've always wanted to say, except, um, well.)
There's a whole community of women who have lived and loved and fallen down and abused and been abused and hurt and cried and celebrated and, what's more, they're brave enough to SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD. It may not seem like much, but damn, it's huge.
nfh from Building Peace was at the conference , and it got her thinking about connections and community.
Community -- that is the core of peace building. The recognition of community across time exists. Community across vast spaces exist. We must build community across socially constructed class to stop the acceleration of artificially enhanced divisive difference.
I'm thinking of starting a "tour" to show any interested women how to connect and communicate via currently available communication technologies...
Attendance at BlogHer '07 in Chicago helped this goal solidify into something concrete enough I can begin to work toward it as a goal.
Who are your blog friends, near and far? What do they mean to you?
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