“So… how do you guys know each other?” Awkward pause.
“From… the Internet.” Smiles and head shakes inevitably followed.
I’ve had this sort of conversation before, but this particular one was this past March, when some visiting friends of ours came to church with us. They were in town for SxSW Interactive, a well-known tech conference in Austin. We’d known each other about three years—online. But this particular week was the first time we met, face-to-face.
And it wasn’t weird at all, just like the many, many people I’ve been blessed to meet in the flesh after first knowing them online. Be it Simple Mom readers, a Twitter interaction, or some other virtual “bump in,” the Internet has exploded my world by shrinking it into shared tables at the local coffee shop; playdates at the park. Book clubs.
Facebook and Twitter don’t replace touchable, 3-D relationships, for sure. But they sure can be the start of them.
• When I think of community, I think of friends I’ve had since college, with whom I still love deeply. We hug each other when we can, even though most of us are scattered worldwide.
• When I think of community, I think of the local church, where I can know people in my own town, and they me. Together, we can break bread over the backyard grill and pour into each other’s souls as we watch our kids tumble together in the grass.
• And when I think of community, I think of the people I’ve grown to love—and know in the flesh, oftentimes—because of this relatively recent invention called the World Wide Web.
I’ve been blessed to veg in a hotel room, chatting with Nester. I’ve ridden in a chandelier-shaking bus on bumpy Filipino roads with Emily, Kat, Stephanie, Lindsay, Shaun, and Keely. And I’ve heard Melissa scream my ear off as I sat in her lap down an alpine slide in Park City.
The editors I work with daily have become so dear to me, even though we haven’t spent much time together in the flesh. I’ve met most of the people that write for my site—not all yet—and they each mean as much to me as local friends and neighbors.
And I look at the avatars of the many of you I’ve yet to meet—but long to—and I smile. I smile, because I know a small part of you, thanks to electric signals and a bunch of ones and zeroes. And even though I probably won’t meet most of you in the flesh here on Earth, we’ll eventually meet one day… Lord-willing.
Community online doesn’t replace community in “real” life. But it can enrich your life, both in breadth and in depth. While you love on your kids at home, a few clicks of the mouse can bring you encouragement from another mom, across the world, right in the trenches with you, too. And sometimes, the Internet also introduces you to friends—real friends, friends you’d otherwise never meet.
Today, I’m thankful for the Internet, because it’s sprinkled the community in my life with flavor. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
How has the Internet surprised you with a community you’d never expect?
By Tsh of Simple Mom