From the start of the internet, I was always interested in connecting to others and being part of a community of like-minded people. Since I have never enjoyed taking on the phone and by the mid-90’s seemed to never have time to write letters anymore (I used to be an avid letter writer) let alone actually go to a book club or other community event I was interested in, the internet seemed to be a great way to connect with others and discuss topics I was actually interested in.
I found chat rooms (not my favorite), group email lists, and message boards. I was led into “blogging” my some of my online friends, as a few of them had Livejournal accounts. I joined and found communities and individuals that I could hook up with to share ideas and thoughts with. I finally found a platform that I could both connect with people and also express myself through writing that people would actually read. It was pretty informal. People could use it as a “real” blog (several authors I liked were there too), but some people used like people use Facebook today, only there ability to just hit “share” wasn’t available–if you wanted to share something you had to manually do it. If you wanted to post, you had to put at least some effort to it.
Later Facebook came about, and I gave it a try. This was around ’07. There was lots of buzz, so I signed up with my work email because this sounded like a great way to connect with people I knew. An old high school friend found me, and we became “friends”. My friends circle slowly grew. I initially liked the idea of Facebook because it was actually geared to connecting to people that one actually knew and offered the ability to share. A couple years down the line, I was reading and learning about Facebook pages and causes, so I signed our animal rescue up for that. Our supporters slowly grew. My partner also joined Facebook, and we convinced my mom to do so. My cousins and aunts were on Facebook, so we could keep up with each other.
Sadly, the cousin and aunt that I corresponded the most through Facebook have since passed away. My mom is not even remotely tech savvy and can’t get into her account (my tech savvy brother I think is tired of trying to get her Facebook to work). My partner posts sporadically to her page saying how bad her life is or a depressing post about an upcoming medical procedure and how she might die after it (I’ve been hearing this for almost 2 decades, so I am no longer alarmed). She also sends profanity-ridden hateful comments on posts about the Republican party, may share some panic-filled articles that others have shared, and and sometimes posts on our animal rescue page. She will then bitch about how she hates what our volunteer admin posts that she wants me to “talk to her” about her posting habits and then move on to how offended she is that certain friends that have posts with the F word in them. My other friends share pictures, videos and quotes for the most part. Sometimes they will post about how their life sucks. Any comments or conversations friends leave on friends posts or sharings seem to just confirm what the poster is trying to convey. Or how cute that kitty video was. No “real” conversation, no at-length dialogue. Comments like “hugs”, “dump that loser”, “don’t let it bother you, people are just stupid” type comments. Some posters don’t even seem to read comments their “friends” make–their friends are having quite a conversation with no input from them. Almost all my Facebook friends are people I know in real life, and I don’t feel connected. I don’t have a lot of time, and I do not like wading through shared photo/video after shared photo/video to get “real” content. To see who may need some supporting words or who has written a thoughtful posts that I would like to be in the conversation about. I’ve lost the interest to care about what’s being said in Facebook. A lot of it are just things to “look at”. I occasionally post a photo of our animals and post on our animal rescue page about an upcoming event, a pet that can be adopted, etc. Pretty minimal nowadays. For the musicians, authors, businesses, or just plain interesting people that I want to have updates on, I now follow them on Twitter. For photos, I joined Pinterest and Instagram.
If I want to actually connect with people and have conversations, I come to WordPress. This has replaced my Livejournal, only in a more professional way. I follow blogs of those that write about writing, food, gardening, farming for themselves, poetry, publishing, self help, etc. I choose topics that I am both interested in and topics that can inspire and better me. We can write posts for the world to see, but can still interact with each other by liking posts, commenting, and sharing. It seems that when one comes to the blogging world, they are more mindful of what they want to read and share. Comments are typically more thoughtful and can allow the opening of dialogue. If someone wants to post that their life sucks; well, they have to elaborate. They have to think about why their life sucks because you don’t just write a one line blog post that says “My life sucks, I hate everyone and everyone” and leave it at that. And from my observations, if that post were to be commented on, it will be a stranger saying “I feel for you, I used to be in the same situation. This is what helped me” or something similar. Sometimes there will be long comments with personal experiences and stories. Somehow, for me at least, I get comfort from comments telling me that person either has been or currently is in a similar situation. I don’t wish people to go through painful experiences, but there is still that comfort of knowing that there are people that understand where I are coming from and we may be sharing, or have shared, the same feelings. There also is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel, as I can also connect with people that have been where I have been and were able to free themselves. Reinforcement, that yes, I CAN make my life into what I want–it’s not just a delusional fantasy as long as I actually do it.
Blogging is also cathartic, and of course a way to showcase your writing if you’re looking to write professionally. While I express some of my opinions and issues on this blog, I started a 2nd blog (https://saucedgrrrl.wordpress.com/) where I post more of my personal frustrations and personal problems that I am having in my relationship. I’m pretty generic, no naming of names, but I have a lot of things that I keep bottled up that I need to express, and at some point can work out my feelings and move on. And I’m telling people, “my life sucks right now, this is why, and this is what I want to do to solve that.” At some point, I’m going to have to actually do what I say I’m going to do, or in some way make it so my life doesn’t suck. Otherwise, anyone that is/was/or will follow me will just dismiss me as a whining fraud, which in effect I would be if all I do is write about what I want to do, but never do it. For me at least, I’m exposing myself little by little to the world and saying “this is my life, good and bad” instead of hiding by a facade of appearing perfect and happy. That’s boring anyway.
Plus, I’m getting practice at trying to effectively write about topics or situations that are both hurtful to me and that I’m passionate about. I don’t think I’m quite to the effective part, but I’m still in the practice mode and several of my posts have been stream of conscious and at times rambling. I am making a conscious decision that February is the time to be more mindful of my writing style and start actually being a “working” writer. I don’t mean being paid for writing (yet), but write like it’s my job. Write in a way that people want to read what I write, whether it be something informational, funny, personal, poignant, which will help prepare me for this year’s NaNoWriMo, which I FINALLY signed up for (I get butterflies just thinking about it). And to be willing to have my work critiqued. There are WordPress bloggers and communities where I can get feedback to better my work. How is that for a writing community?
I’ve only been an active blogger on WordPress for the past month, and an extremely sporadic blogger at best for the past few years. I can truthfully say that I’ve found more connections within the past month through actively blogging, reading, and commenting than I have in a year’s worth of checking my Facebook.
To me, that is an effective community.