You could argue that an online community is just as real as one that exists in real life. And in some ways, you would be right. We exist, we exchange, we communicate. We work and create in this online space as in any other. So why would we go to so much trouble to come together when the opportunity arises?
There is a spark between two people that can happen only when they meet eye to eye for the first time, shake hands, hug, share a business card, a smile, or introduce another friend. There is an energy exchange when friends are introduced, streets are walked together, food and drink are shared. Opportunity sparkles in a new way when conversations are had in real time, with the complexities of tone and voice and expression stirred right in. Inspiration rings more clearly when experienced with common hearts and minds nearby.
There is something special about coming together with those you know, or those you have wanted to meet, and it cannot be replaced. I work and interact online every day, but could never trade those opportunities for meeting new contacts, sharing time and inspiration with other people, or finally being face to face with old friends again.
And so it came to be that I found myself in Toronto again for Blissdom Canada (my third year attending this savvy and inspirational social media conference!) I can’t believe it’s already come and gone!
Why do we do it? We come together to congratulate one another on successes, commiserate over losses, to talk and laugh and shout and question and move one another from thought to thought, from inspiration to inspiration. We do it because we need to, because there is only one best way to truly reach one another and that is to look each other in the eye, or to take one another by the hand. We do it because every time we come together, and smile in greeting, and turn to introduce one more person to another, we are better. We come together to breathe more deeply and to risk more freely. We do it because we love what we do, and we do it better together.
We celebrated together, we learned together. We were inspired together. And then we indulged ourselves: in costumes, in conversation, in excursions made to clear our minds and challenge our hearts.
We come together to find common ground, to remind ourselves how alike we really are, and in doing so perhaps create the grace that allows us to build this community as the days and weeks continue after the conference. When we go back to our computers, to our words and work, to our quiet rooms, we will remember each other. We will remember that spark, that common ground, that smile or laughter that hinted at a bond. We will remember celebrating together, and live with the memory of being lifted, together, toward better connection and community online.
We will remember each other, and the time we shared. The distance that allows people to act carelessly online or without grace, without caring will not be ours. We will have shared time. We will have shared space. We will have shaken hands, shared laughter or made mutual friends. We become, for a time, very real and it is that which will sustain us.
For what better way is there to build positivity and community online than to come out and remind one another how very real we all are?
I’m thankful to have been in the middle of it all, yet again. There is much more to consider, to share, to write, but for now, I am again happy to have had the opportunity.