March 23, 2009

Seventeen Hours

I’ve been thinking about the connections and community we develop on the Internet. It is an interesting phenomenon that, as we cocoon ourselves away from human contact, we increase our circle of contacts online. A new sort of community develops, one with advantages and disadvantages.

This online community in which I participate is a positive force. I meet and talk with people I could never otherwise reach; and it enriches my life for the different opinions and experiences to which I am witness. I am instantly taken around the world to see it through others’ eyes.

I understand that it takes a minimum of seventeen hours of time together to develop a sense of community with a group of people. Do you suppose it’s the same on the Internet? There are a number of people on whose blogs I’ve spent that amount of time reading, interacting in the abbreviated fashion of comments. My circle of Internet friends is not static, and we intersect in a series of circles: some friends in common, some not. That makes this community very difficult to define.

Meeting some of my blogger friends has been easier than I expected it to be (being the introvert that I am). In some sense our conversations have started where we left off. Like old friends separated by time and distance, we have a history and a familiarity. But there are blanks in that history, of those times when we aren’t erudite, those awkward silences, times when we interact poorly or just plain disagree. That’s missing from the Web, because we edit the persona we present to the public.

On the other hand, you who read my blog are privy to some thoughts I would find difficult to express verbally; and that imbues an intimacy that discussion alone could not. The best of both worlds is reading each other’s thoughts and experiences and then getting together to talk about them all. That fills in the blanks in both worlds.

Those seventeen hours together give us a sense of belonging which all people crave. We must take care that we don’t lose the connections we have with those in Real Life, reaching for the mirage of perfection on the Internet. Bring them together as best you can, and bridge the communities of your own making. We are at the beginning of a whole new paradigm of what community means, setting new rules of behavior and communication. It’s exciting and potentially dangerous as we navigate unfamiliar straits. Let’s be a beacon to those who follow.

7 comments:

Ur-spo said...

that was nicely put.

I wonder about blogger contacts and 'how real' they are, but they are real, in a different way like no others experienced so far.

bigislandjeepguy said...

I sometimes wish I was closer to a lot of the people whose blogs I read; I sense that I would form some real-life friendships that would totally kick ass. But it is kind of hard to take a road trip when you live on an island way out here.

Community is *huge* on the east side of our island, whereas the west is such a mix of people that sometimes that sense of community gets lost in the shuffle. I miss it sometimes, but my partner has introduced me to all of his coworkers and friends who in turn have become mine; people who (many) were born and raised on this island and are happy to share that sense of community.

Roxrocks said...

I feel closer to some of my blogger friends than the people that I know IRL. I've allowed myself to be as open as I can be on my blog and this has brought me a solid group of people that I trust. I really do trust them too!

I'd love to meet more of my blog friends because I totally could just pick up in the now, no need for the backstory, as it's all there in black and white.

THIS IS ME....ONLINE said...

Most of the time when I write, it is for myself as much as it for my blog friends. I don't feel I'm alone in using it to process some of my own feelings as well as for sharing. The fact that you can read the "naked" me, I think you respond more to my truths as I do to yours. That breeds a special familarity and trust.

Never heard about 17 hours. That's an interesting thought that will keep my little mind busy for awhile. :)

David said...

I hope that we have a chance to meet face to face sometime in the not too distant future.

evilganome said...

I have had the chance to meet some other bloggers out there. I guess you would say we were introduced by Father Tony, since I became aware of your blog through his.

I have found that the people who interest me online, and whose blogs I wind up following, I usually like as much if not more in person.

tornwordo said...

I'd like to think that if a blogger friend meets me, I'm exactly how they imagined. The only thing I filter from the public persona is whininess, and even then I'm not often successful.