One of the great opportunities we have in our modern society is the simplicity of communicating through the internet. We take it for granted now, but just a couple generations ago, it didn’t even exist. If you wanted to talk to someone on the other side of the world, you either wrote a letter (and waited forever for the response to return) or made an expensive phone call (although, if you go back just a little further, even that wasn’t available).
Now we just pop open the internet and within moments we’re having conversations with people all over the world. Marginalized groups, who previously felt alone in the world, have a way to discover they aren’t as alone as they thought. People who otherwise would never have met become fast friends.
Having spent much of my younger life playing online games, I’ve been lucky to have many such friends. More recently, though, my online friends have come in the form of my writing support group, the Alliance of Worldbuilders. We started out as a group focused on giving constructive criticism on each others’ writing, but grew into something much more – a group of good friends from around the world. We even published an anthology of short stories together.
This week I had the great opportunity to meet one of those friends in person – she was on vacation nearby and she suggested we could get together (last month she had met up with a number of the others in the group who, like her, live in England and previously had met a number of others around the world as well). Opportunities like this rarely arise, so even though it meant leaving my house (blech!) and driving to and in one of the largest cities in the country (blargleblech!!!), Colleen and I decided to go meet her.
After arriving late because I’d only planned for half the bad traffic we encountered, we the three of us hit it off fantastically. I think we actually got along better in person than online. I had expected that we’d visit for maybe an hour, but we ended up chatting for over three hours an everything from writing to social issues to plotting global domination (forget I said that last one). My first meeting with an online friend was a huge success.
For me, it highlighted the wonderful opportunities afforded to us through the internet. It had the marvellous capability of bringing together people who, in a past age, could never have met. What’s so great about this? The discovery that all the people across the world aren’t all that different from ourselves. Previously, all we could go on for picturing people of other nations was derived from meeting a few here and there, maybe travelling, and hearing from other peoples’ descriptions of then. This, of course, all gets simplified down into the stereotypes that still survive today.
Yet, now, those stereotypes are tempered by the ability to go online and talk to almost anyone. We can really meet and find out about each other; discover how similar we are. In spite of the people clinging to the past – insisting it’s us against them – cultures from around the world are being brought closer and closer together.
What a wonderful potential this has for changing how we view the world.
Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.