I was talking to XO not too long ago, I admire the dude tons because when most of his generation is soiling their panties about the current demographic changes in America, he embraces them. Our conversations are all over the place but we started to talk about community. It gave me a couple of ideas for topics to discuss and here is one of them.
I have been lucky enough to be a part of various online communities. The blogsphere, ChicagolandSportbikes, Lanparty groups both in Chicago and Michigan, and ultimately our WoW Guild. From each one of them I have made lasting friendships and countless life experiences. Not only do I have relationships that blossomed online, they also translated to very solid real life ones. Then I started to think about other places where I had made friends and was floored when I realized that I don’t talk to anyone from any of the churches I have been a member in the past, I also don’t have any people that I talk to from highschool here in the US (alas that was only two years jumping from bilingual classes to honor classes). The outlier is probably the people I meet at work (and mostly because you spend so much time at work during your life) and those compose the first half of my closest friends. In the end most of the people in my social circles I have started relationships with online. From my wife, to half of my closest best friends, they were all relationships that in one way or another started online and became real life.
My wife and Daniel I met when I first started blogging are are probably my two longest relationships that started online. I eventually met them both personally and in a couple of weeks we are going to once again spend some time together. Interestingly enough, Bea and her best online friend are going to meet for the first time face to face that week. I know Bab’s husband a little better than I know her, but it will be awesome to make those relationships solid.
We are constantly thought by the media to be affraid of our neighbors. I am lucky that I know most of my neighbors now, but living in condos makes that a little easier to do. I have lived plently of places where I don’t know many of my neighbors. I know what car they drive, if the have a riding lawn mower or not, but about them probably zero. When you meet people online, specially because of a shared interest you get to know them in a much deeper level than you even do with the people that you go to church with. Sure you both are supposed to believe the same thing, but in reality do you really form a community with the people that have your “belief” system?
Part of it is that Catholics here in the U.S. are very, get to church and get out without much mingling. Even when you stay there for the special events, most of the communication is small talk. But I have also been part of many Christian churches with a deeper sense of community and lots of hanging out. What happens there is that when you move, or decided that rapture is just not something for you to have in the forefront of your mind, the friendships are instantly gone. There is a lot of exclusion in those communities. So the old sense of religion building communities is being eroded because in a large way most religions are preaching separatism instead of unity and tolerance.
Moving back to Chicago has been an amazing experience. Living in the far north side is very cool, tons of stuff to do plus downtown is not too far away. Most of my friends are all the say in the far west suburbs or even south heading towards Joliet. Hanging out is more for the weekends than just a quick lunch or a beer after work (which was pretty easy to set up back in KC.) I do however stay connected with my friends online or over the phone, and relationships seem to be a lot more meaningful that way. Online communities are forming new tribes and that to me is pretty amazing.
You start with a shared common interest and end up really getting to know people. I love this phenomenon. Most people that have met me IRL can tell you that I can probably make a friend anywhere, but knowing that a lot more people can use the internet as an intrument to connect makes me happy. People that might not have the human interaction because they are shy, or have an impediment can connect using the internet and form strong communities where geography is not an obstacle anymore.
The conversation with XO only created many, many, many more questions in my head…
So what about you? Have you started a relationship online first yet? Is the internet helping you keep in touch and reconnect? Are online relationships just a meaningful for you than the real life ones?