The online community can be the place where false information is spread faster than the speed of light and half the people that read that falsehood and swear it is fact. Yet the online community is a great place for folks in the art community to share information,learn new things and possibly find a support system that works for them. Many folks, like myself, live far away from large populations that afford you the opportunity to interface with others in similar arts or like places in the creative continuum. For folks who reside in sparsely populated places, the online community affords a parallel experience that the city folks have available to them locally. Nothing can replace in person interactions, but sometimes being part of the online community is the best we can do.
One of my favorite places of learning is YouTube. It is there I can learn from others showing what they have done and how they have approached something. Some of the videos are exceptional and others ho hum. Some of them teach me what I want to try and others let me know what I don’t want to try. If I am struggling with results, or want to find out another use for a medium I will head to YouTube. If I am looking for inspiration YouTube along with Google searches and Pinterest are some of my first stops. I can pick elements and techniques, then put my own spin on it all.
One of my favorite support experiences was when I participated in National Novel Writing Month. I had always wanted to write, but never held myself accountable to get it done. This group not only cheered me on, but checked on me when I was a no show or my progress started to lag. It is a lot like this AtoZ Challenge I am currently participating in. One of the things that participants are asked to do is to visit five or six other participants blogs. I have enjoyed what I have found on other participants blogs, but also found that the comments that others leave me thought provoking and encouraging.
It has nothing to do with my creative endeavors, but I also have an online group who is out there pushing me on in my quest for a consistent higher level of fitness. They are my FitBit women “friends”, who are over 50, overweight and want to be more active and hopefully out of that more fit. We admit we hate exercise, and we imagine we don’t have time for it. Between us we watch out for each other, push each other, cheer on one another and check on the ones who seem to fall away and help them find their way back. I also have a couple of local friends on my FitBit list who are more active on a bad day that I am on a good day. I hold those women up as the impossible dream I chase.
Most of the folks we meet in the online community will never be more than what they are support and instruction. Yet once in awhile you will “meet” someone, and the relationship we become a little more. I had one quilter that we started with a challenge and years later we still stayed in touch. The connection lasted through two moves on my part and one on hers, the illness and eventual death of her husband, the changing of jobs, quilts started, classes taken and so much more. We even met once when she was traveling down from her home in Canada to see Yellowstone and the Tetons. It was great to meet up after the years of knowing her only through messages. It was the only time that happened, but occasionally a connection may be made that is a little more.
So your online community will never replace your local friends and family, but they can help you out and provide support if you let them. But be smart. Be skeptical. Assume people are not always as they say they are. Most of all don’t share too much personal information. After all these people really are strangers and you wouldn’t tell the person behind you in the grocery your life details, don’t do it in the online community.