Choose how your nature shapes you. Embrace it. Find the strength in it..
Last week, after eight years, NPR joined a growing number of news and media outlets that have removed comment sections from their websites. I am, quite honestly, over the moon about this development, and I'm very much hoping it will keep the ball rolling on this trend.
I grew up on the internet. Most of my current friendships and my marriage were fostered online, and of the ones that began elsewhere, the internet and apps are my primary means of connecting with pretty much everyone I care about. I navigated adolescence in the early 2000s with a folder of bookmarked blogs that included both peers around the world and smart, thoughtful adult women whose sharing shaped who I am today. Without commenter communities, none of that would have happened.
But as communities began to overlap and bleed into one another (due in large part to sites like Facebook, which turned every interaction with every group you belonged to into a news headline for all your acquaintances to see), things got a lot messier. Not that there weren't always trolls and harassment online, but something changed in the years of my young adulthood that meant our safer spaces were easier for outsiders to discover and infiltrate, regardless of their intentions.
It's been those community-focused spaces that have always held my attention and brought me closer to myself and others. I've certainly chafed at those older women telling me I just couldn't know yet, that I was young, because whether it's a standard feeling or it's something that becomes particularly irritating when you've had to be too adult for your age for much too long, I never wanted to be told I didn't understand something. But despite my resistance, when eventually the lesson came 'round, the advice of those adoptive older sisters was still in my head, and I knew what to do. I knew what to do because of them.
The small corners of the internet where I still hang my hat continue to be these kinds of places, and I tend to leave the kinds of places where people are broadcasting rather than communicating. As much as this newsletter looks like broadcasting, it's the responses to it that make it feel worthwhile; when someone replies, or comments on it, or sends me something they know I'll be excited to include, it's important. It's important that I spend the week picking up bits and bobs of internet ephemera that I think help me connect to those of you who read this. I enjoy that part, truly, the most.
My discovery of newsletters has also brought me more of the kinds of connections I found in those old blogs. Readerships for most of them are small enough that if I reply, I get a response in turn. Larger ones, like the Awl newsletter, have fostered connections in other ways; I got connected with my Awl pal a couple of weeks ago and I'm making a point to feed that (hi, J!).
As much as I'd love to go back to the internet of people, I'm not sure it's really in the cards. That said, I'm glad to see things sort of moving back in that direction.
A newsletter on life, current events, media & culture, and living in wonder amidst it all.