I’ll admit it, I was slow to catch on to the beauty of the Internet, and the many forums available for every possible interest. I was slow, and I was afraid. I am a paranoid New Yawkah, yanno. That paranoia has kept me safe for many years. That and a healthy dose of luck.
So, my first real experience with the Internet was through the epilepsy forum I joined. It’s informative, and filled with warm fuzzies. People who offer help, information, support, prayers, and cyberhugs. I will admit, those hugs freaked me out a bit. I’m not a hugger, of trees or otherwise. Awkward pats are my specialty. 😉 Except for the kids; children’s hugs are lovely–unless they’re sticky, in which case, please wash your hands first.
The point is that everyone there is kind. Some are wonderful writers and able to communicate their thoughts clearly, some aren’t. Some highly educated, some not, some wealthy, some quite poor. Some come across as people I wish lived next door, others not so much. But I’ve learned a lot through that community, much of it having nothing to do with epilepsy, seizures, medication, or learning disabilities. I feel I’ve learned a lot about myself, and how to recognize when I’m being judgemental, and how to get that part of myself in check. Or at least work on it. 😉
Anyway, after a time, I got brave. I joined an on-line writer’s community. Umm, not so warm and fuzzy. This was more of a cross section. Apparently being a writer, or a wannabe, isn’t quite the same heartwarming bond as parenting a child with epilepsy (or being an adult living with epilepsy). I was on there semi-regularly for a while, got some helpful critiques, but it didn’t hold me. In the past year I’ve joined a couple of “reefing” communities. No pretense of warm fuzzies or support, but some good info if you don’t mind being ripped apart for being a newb, and daring to ask questions that the regulars are tired of answering.
I’m “getting with the times,” use the computer for more and more areas of my life, I’m even familiar with some of the acronyms the cool kids use. 😉 But why do so many seem to lose all sense of decency and courtesy when they’re on-line? Not every forum needs to be a feel-good, safe place. I have friends (what could be better than Friday Night Madness?), but sheesh! I am honestly appalled by how many people send their internal editor on an extended break when they log on to a community forum. Why? I’m pretty sure most of these people are just regular folks that you wouldn’t look at twice in the grocery store. What has happened in our society that so many are waiting for an opportunity to be rude, cruel and abusive to strangers, famous or otherwise?
Political threads are filled with dogma, no real attempts to discuss the issues with intelligence. Certainly no artful debates. Religious threads are worse, displaying intolerance that makes me cringe.
Too many forums come across like a high school-themed movie. Cliques with the cool kids on one side, and the nerds on the outside. I’ve always been willing to embrace my inner nerd. 🙂
I’m thinking about the idea that I know I started becoming less judgemental in real life, realizing I need to give the same consideration to people around me as I do to those in my warm fuzzy on-line forum. I believe that I have benefited from this. I’ve opened myself to people I might not have several years ago, and my life is enriched by these friends. I found myself responding to people and situations differently without thinking this through; it just started happening. If this is how it has worked for me, how does it work for the many I see on-line who go in the opposite direction? We already know grammar is going out the window, and spelling is quickly becoming a quaint tradition practiced by some of the older generation. I don’t remember who said it (I know Robert Heinlein did, I’m pretty sure he got it from someone else), but there’s a quote saying that the loss of common courtesy is the first sign of a civilization’s downfall. I can’t help but wonder if that’s true, and if we’re there.