Stew-thinking about life online

I have recently been thinking a great deal about the internet age in which we find ourselves, in which my kids are growing up, and I am growing out.

On the one hand, while social media is often lots of fun and an excellent way to keep up with news and events as they unfold, it can also be vapid, cringe-inducing and an enormous waste of time. Others' perfectly curated, multi-filtered social media feeds can make even the most confident person pause with doubt and tremulously ask, "Shit, do I have it together at all?"

The flip side of that veneer, however, is the extraordinary depth underneath it. There thrives a world constrained by nothing but one's connection speed. It is a place to meet others with similar interests, to learn about alternate viewpoints, to grow and connect with people from all over.

I didn't understand this world until relatively recently. Just didn't know it was there I guess. Having grown up and lived my most formative years without email, smart phones and the omnipresent web, going online for friends and outlet and study wasn't something I thought an option.

My blog was my foray into the wired world, and my life there has deepened exponentially as I've become friends with readers, been inspired by other bloggers, taken a slew of classes and attended various writing conferences. 

What I've been so repeatedly struck by is the generosity, warmth, open and supportive natures of many I've met. Of course there are the standard jerkface, selfish people who roam among us, and no one gets along with everyone, but there is so much humanity out there, so much honesty and real care.

It's as if someone shook the picnic blankets on which all the old "villages" stood, tossing them to the far corners on capricious winds. And since that dissolution, people have been working their way back toward one another, finding new tribes and reconnecting with old ones along the way.

The internet has hastened these connections, has made possible what might otherwise be unimaginable. And in the meantime, it's offered new life, hope and promise to many. 

Personally, it's given me a space to develop and grow confident in my voice. It's shown me that what some may consider my weaknesses, others value and appreciate; that's been awfully liberating even though ages-old self-judgments are hard to shrug off. It's often made me feel less alone. It's as often helped me accept myself more thoroughly and to stand up for that self. It's enabled me to clearly distinguish between the sort of friends who are the most true and those who aren't; many of the good pals I am so fortunate to have are, in some way, related to the sense of self and community that has evolved since I entered the web. 

In short, a vibrant, rich, supportive life online has made my offline life better and clearer in countless ways. 

I have a friend who loathes the concept of the village. She understands the concept's appeal but just detests the name. I'm laughing as I write this because not only do I actually love the "village" construct but also because it cracks me up to think of her rolling her eyes when/if she reads this. 

Maybe I love it because I craved such a community or simply because I need a village as I make my way through this life. More often than not, I find life hard. Just plain difficult. I used to feel this was an enormous failure on my part, some horrid mutation that I was cursed by. But I yam who I yam, and even when I wish I were a lighter being, the relief that comes from accepting myself is incalculably huge. It's a long drink of ice water after trudging through the Mojave in July. 

I'm happy to have landed here.