If you're a Facebook, Flickr, or other online contact of mine, chances are you've read about it already, because lately I'm
It's ironic (for real; not that spoon and knife fake irony thing), because I used to make SO much fun of social networking and online socializing. It's not real socializing. It's not meaningful. Buncha losers. Me, I'll take my paperback book and my cats, and maybe a rerun of The Outer Limits. You know, because I'm cooler.
As with anything else about which I am at any point completely certain, I have been proven not just wrong, but, like, super wrong. Like this-ship-is-unsinkable wrong. Like that poor guy who's responsible for CFCs and leaded gas. Like "Oh, our son is definitely over his stomach bug. Let's go on a car ride" wrong.
I offer my complete concession that the Internet can be a wonderful tool for real life. Sure, it can be addicting and time-wasting and it can be antisocial. However, for a well-intentioned but pathologically shy person like me, and used the right way, it can be awesome. Here are a few things I think are awesome about it.
1.) You know that curious, wonderful, fleeting sense of very odd community you get at a wedding -- where your elderly, TBN-watching relatives are talking to (and even finding something in common with) your college friend who took out the nose ring and covered up the naked-lady tattoos special for today? It's kind of awesome, really. The way I use the Internet, that's what it does. Facebook, the blog, my pictures. I love it. Retirees comment beside twenty-somethings. My fellow literary snobs and my one friend who asks me to "holler back" if I can help his "homies" discuss the finer points of life. Bleeding hearts, right there beside the guy who keeps inviting me to Republican events. (Wait. Does "Republicans On the Rocks" simply refer to our state's generally rocky landscape, or to the event's refreshments? Maybe you should pencil me in.)
2.) The awesomeness of my online friends and acquaintances. They're inspiring, whether it be accomplishments, talent, compassion, whatever. They rock. They've been saying one of the different things about the aid going to the victims of this latest disaster is that it's hugely revolving around one-person-at-a-time, networking-with-friends efforts. Like this. (Got some more inspiring finds? List 'em in the comments.) And I've already mentioned the auction (there's a whole group of us) and the cool photo contest (it's run by Aimee, who donated a dollar for every entry and then just up and donated a bunch more). Good stuff, people.
3.) I make real friends! This one, honestly, has been the most surprising to me. There's something to be said for in-person contact, to be sure. However, there is also something to be said for getting to know someone on a daily basis through what they have to offer creatively and in correspondence. There's something about what a person chooses to share. It's special. If you pick the right people (I'm cockily confident in my ability to choose the coolest of contacts and friends), it's real. From Tom, who I totally should have known better in high school but love reading now; to my new friends Bill and Louise, who graciously opened their home to my son and me, after which Louise took us on a birdwatching tour of her neighborhood; to Leslie, one of my best online buddies and a kick-ass writer and photog (but someone I'd be way intimidated to approach before getting to know online) ... well, I could go on listing folks all day. But the Internet hasn't replaced my social life (such as it was). It's enhanced it.
I give up. The Internet's won me over.
Except Lolcats. Still not buyin' it.