Monday, October 05, 2009

Creating Community

When I began blogging more than 3 years ago, I was thrilled to find an outlet for my yearning to write. As an English major in college, and now as a teacher of English composition to college freshmen, I am an enthusiastic advocate of writing. It is, after all, one of the principle ways whereby we humans have retained history.

In the space of the last three years, I have probably written a book's worth of thoughts. And I am profoundly grateful for the few readers I have, who stop by here and who occasionally leave a comment.

What I had not expected to find is a community of friends. Now, I am sure somewhere there is a sociologist who is cautioning my presumption that I can find communal solidarity with people whom I have never met. But I do.

Years ago, there was a wonderful sitcom--Barney Miller. Maybe you remember it.

I recall one show where a very distraught woman came into the police station. She proceeded to tell the officers about scenes of domestic violence and mayhem that she had witnessed. They probed, and after a bit it became very clear that what she was watching was not a window, but the television. She had mistaken an earlier version (TV) of cyber reality for ACTUAL reality.

That episode is at the back of my mind as a kind of caution for me not to confuse virtual cyber community with face-to-face community. But, I still care about the people I have met through blogging (and, of late, through Facebook).

Just as with our close-by friends, our cyber friends can be open and sharing. People whose blogs I read, and who read mine, know some of what I am involved with. For example, my blogging friend
Philip knows I teach--so he sent me a very interesting article on the dangers of over-using computers in the classroom.

Or, I can share with my blogging friend
Christine our mutual love of elephants, and support for the wonderful place The Elephant Sanctuary.

These are just two small examples of how we share communally through cyber-space.

And then, today, I received a comment on a blog that I had written so long ago I had quite forgotten it. Entitled
Unauthorized Stories, I had written about telling tales on my children--who then called me on telling the tales. This comment came from a new reader--here, you can read what Curtis said.

I stumbled upon your website through trying to find the words to Crosby, Stills and Nash's song, Teach Your Children Well. How I got here, only the good Lord knows but it has been a delight to me. Reading this story reminded me of being with my son two weeks ago (he is my baby and is 34) and going through a divorce. Telling him of how important my wife, his step-mon, is to me and that she has been really the only mom to him. I played the song of Foster and Allen "After All These Years." After listening politely, he said matter of factly "That's nice."

I realized he is not in the same place I am. When his children were toddlers, he said to me, "Dad, I am glad you have grandchildren because now, in your sermons, you will give me some rest. I assured him that was not the case, I only had more unauthorized stories.

Thank you for your blog, Peace, Curtis

Well, such a thing could only happen in this cyber community. I can't imagine someone I have never met overhearing a conversation I might be having--and then stepping up to say what Curtis said. Face to face, we simply don't do such a thing. But this space--cyber-space--allows us to make connections--to create community--in ways that we cannot or will not do face to face.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

You are right- this is an amazing community. I have been so fortunate in meeting several of my blogging friends. I can say they are no longer just cyber-friends. I am so happy to have found my way here too. Many of your blog posts have really challenged me to think critically about various issues and to clarify my thinking.
(I still feel rather hopeless reading poetry....)

Beth said...

I feel the same way. Reading and participating in blogging completely opened my world. I discovered a community of people who were interested in the same things that I was and could write and take pictures and examine thoughts and I stopped being so lonely up here in the wilds of Maine. It has been almost two years for me and I count blogger as part of who I am these days. Last week I called about an advertisement that I was running in the paper--the advertising office was in another town about an hour away from me. The woman who answered the phone told me that the woman that I was seeking was out of the office but she would put me through to her voicemail. First, though, she said, "may I ask you a question?" I said "sure". She said "Are you from Beth's Stories blog?" I guess, you just never know who is reading.

Anvilcloud said...

That's a great way to start a new friendship.

Anonymous said...

I love it when, out of the blue, somebody makes a connection with you or vice versa, through the things written in this blog neighborhood. When I first started blogging it was with a bit of embarrassment and anxiety about putting myself (and my family) out there for the whole world to read. Since then I've met the most wonderful people and when I'm out of the loop because of other responsibilities I miss those people and look forward to reconnecting through their blog updates. This is a great one, Donna.

Jayne said...

It really is an interesting dynamic, this on-line community of people/friends. For many of us, whose lives are not as social as they might like, it's such a powerful testimony to the ability to reach out and connect with people. This story is such a great illustration of how we might touch someone without even knowing or trying. So glad you are here Donna. :c)

Scattering Lupines said...


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

In a way, I supposed modern blogging could be equated to the older notion of "pen pals," except nowadays with photos and other mixed media, the near-instant feedback of comments and answers, plus the fact you can have avid readers you never see, hear from, or know exist.

Still the connecting is quite similar, in that it can be totally real and honest. And while, like its pen pal antecedent, it might never get to develop into a face-to-face meeting, I do believe long lasting and genuine friendships are possible.

The great and enduring friendship a mutual literary influence between the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell was mostly kept alive through correspondence. In fact, their friendship seemed to require the separation of distance.

In the end, I don't see much difference or danger in confusing a virtual cyber community with a face-to-face community; both can harbor people who are dishonest or even mean you harm; both need due caution in their approach and immersion. But isn't life always about such choices?

I count online friends—you included, Donna—as friends, period. And I'm grateful that blogging gives me such opportunities.

possumlady said...

Donna, you have no idea how excited I was when I read that you had heard of and support The Elephant Sanctuary! You are the only person in my life, blogging, face to face friends, co-workers, and family that has even heard of the place. So yes, we do have a special connection.

And I agree with Grizzled, I count you as a friend, period. Your posts always interest and challenge me and your comments to my blog consistenly support me as I deal with all the trials and tribulations of being a crazy cat lady :-)

Now, if I could just get a handle on that Facebook thing...

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

There are a wide variety of people in our circle of "friends" in the cyber world. Some I enjoy bouncing idea off or sharing some idea or web site that excites me and I think might excite them.

Others I try to encourage in their blogging efforts.

Still others I stupport through personal crises: death, marriage, divorce, lots job etc. Some of this latter bunch I have left the blogging and begun an exchange of emails of a more private nature. It seem you can take the minister out of the ministry but you cannot take the ministry out of the minister.

A special few I yearn to meet personally. I am not in a position to travel much so it is not likely to happen. These few I hold close in my affection. Some I fell reciprocate.

NCmountainwoman said...

I couldn't agree with you more. It is incredible that so many like-minded people find one another. I'm glad you are my friend.

JeanMac said...

I lean on the support and friendship of the online community, thank you for your ongoing support.

Mary said...

I think we feel safe knowing someone in cyberspace. We can take our time and observe that person from a distance. The end result is a great friendship or one that didn't we didn't care to nuture.

I feel a strong bond with you and other here. If we met face to face tomorrow, it would like I saw you yesterday.


Mary said...

I apologize for the typos but you know you can expect that from me, right? ;-)

Beverly said...

I'm trying to get caught up on blog reading. I haven't been doing a very good job of reading, writing, or commenting. I have found such a ownderful community in the blogosphere. Just lately two of my favorites have suffered loss, one a father, the other her husband, and as I've read, I've wept as though they were so well known to me. I cherish the friends made here.