this month's topic for Journeys - Online Life.
8 Weeks, 3 Days, 16 Hours, 59 Minutes
this is how long i've been online with my BBS, The Boston BBS. i'm rather proud of the fact that i haven't crashed out anything, and have been able to keep track of my onlne time from day 1. there's something nice about the continuity. (watch, now that i've said that...) i've gone from being a member, to being a moderator, to being the Marketing Diva (yes, i asked for that title). what started as a lark six years ago has turned into an important part of my life. i've made good friends thru the board, some of whom i see daily, and some of whom i've never met in person. the desire to give back to community is why i volunteer my time to manage conferences, file areas, and marketing, among other thins. and truly, it is a community. i've heard people say that there is no such thing as an online community. they seem to think that it isn't possible to get to know someone from their words. i wonder if these people have ever had a pen pal, or felt as if they really understood a writer after finishing a book, or recognize the power of the written word.
it's been an interesting learning experience in many ways, being part of the BBS. we grouse about our Fine Canadian Software for a reason, and have dubbed the server The Pig. helping out in my small way to wrestle them into line has been ...oh, let's be charitable... educational. ;) working as a moderator has taught me some about building and fostering community. the care and feeding of an active conference area can be work, it can be fun, it can be a dud, and it is worth the effort. i've had the good luck to be able to gad about, getting involved in whichever part of the group strikes my fancy at the time.
i'm not sure how being part of this group has influenced the rest of my online experience. hm. i do assume there are real people behind every site. the thought of messing around with software doesn't bother me. i think that you can build a community anywhere, as long as you know your purpose. and it's probably contributed to my everlasting hatred of AOHell. on the board (BBS), people go by real names, conversations are mostly articulate, intelligent and funny, and there's always someone to help you find the answer to your question, no matter how arcane. AOHell, on the other hand, seems to be an overwhelmingly large mish mash of kids who talk about the latest KeWl band 'cuz it's phat (as i date myself by using horrendously outdated slang), trolls who want nothing more than to piss you off, and generally inane conversations. plus, that interface - i hate. so, yeah... i guess it's made me a little particular about the company i keep, knowing that it's possible to find some really great groups of people to hang out with.
lest you think, from the title of this piece, that i'm a complete 'net addict, let's do the math. that's just over two months solid, over six years. works out to be about 3% of any given day. 43.2 minutes a day. huh. oh boy. um... jeepers. that's actually a lot, now that i've done the math. and it's only a fraction of the time that i spend on the 'net. well, that little exercise didn't work out the way i thought it would. ;)
i do also spend a fair amount of time (okay, hours at a time) surfing the 'net and using it as a research tool, entertainment source, and substitute for the yellow pages/information/road maps. but to me, that's not an online 'life', any more than watching my favorite TV show at the same time as thousands of others makes me part of, say, the Gideon's Crossing community. that's just using the 'net as a tool, not as a way to connect with people.
journalling is the latest part of my online life. it started as a rather abstract kind of thing. i'd been reading several journals (check out the links page, if you're interested) on a regular basis, and feeling rather involved in what was going on in these peoples' lives. and at some level, starting this journal is my side of the 'conversation' that came out of reading what other people chose to share. granted, it's a very '100,000 foot' level, but it's there. more concretely, i've started to earn some regular readers, who have been kind enough to sign my guestbook and give me some feedback. that first guestbook entry? rocked my world. someone, somewhere, was interested enough not only to read my scribblings, but also to write and say kind things. others, with their own journals, have been generous enough to ask if they could link to my journal. collab groups, such as this one right here, as well as a few others, have expanded the community by letting me be part of the group. (thanks for having me, guys!) it's intimidating, exhilarating and inspiring, all at once, to read some of the other writers/journallers out there, and realize that they felt my writing met their standards. damn... talk about motivation to really work on my writing. and that's a good thing.
as i work in different collab groups, and take part in discussion forums on different journal sites, and start to know some of the other journallers, it becomes apparent that, while more diffuse in some ways than the BBS, there is a thriving journal community there, and i'm finding a way to be part of it.