Friends have heard me talk about this before, but I like this subject, so I’ll talk about it again.
New Yorkers are kind of, um New Yorkcentric. Not only does the world revolve around us, but we tend to believe we are the most well rounded, evolved folks in the world. No provincial thinking here. Hah!
It’s easy as morning coffee to be provincial here. Spend an evening in a local bar and hear 8 languages being spoken at any given time, have a drink with straight people, gay people, every ethnicity, young people, old people, rich or poor. I can go months without leaving my immediate neighborhood, and still eat at any ethnicity restaurant, shop for any type of clothing, roam the parks and enjoy a variety of live music, see a play, attend a poetry reading, attend services at a church/temple/meeting house for every religion you can think of, or even never leave my apartment and still have any and everything delivered to my door.
It wasn’t until I had reason to join an online forum that I realized how very narrow my world and my focus was. At first it was plain old weird. I prefaced every sentence to Husband with, “this woman I know online,” etc. It felt squishy to define someone I’d never met face to face as a friend. I’ve gotten over it, and have made many online friends over the years. There’s an intimacy created in these forums, safety in getting to know someone through a computer screen. At this point I’ve been lucky enough to meet several face to face–the good part of living in NY, lots of people have reason to come or just a desire to visit. I meet them after they do their touristy thing. Really, it’s ok, you can climb the Statue of Liberty without me.
I’ll meet you in the park later, by the chick who’s dressed as her, green sheet, face paint, silent, with a bucket for donations at her feet.
Now, I’m a left leaning gal, most of my face to face (trying to think of a better term than “In Real Life”, my online friends are quite real, thank you) friends are also left leaning. Even the ones who vote right lean left to some degree or another. I’ve had plenty of friends who attended church/temple/fill in your house of worship here, but for most, there’s a wide distance btw church and state, friends, and politics.
In the past seven years or so, I’ve moved into a new neighborhood, a whole new world, and truly been exposed to different frames of reference. Some of my online friends are people I “know” I’d become friends with no matter how I met them. But that isn’t true for everyone. The interesting thing about forums is how they are a window, and the curtains that drape them one subject or area of interest, one commonality. A sneaky thing happens when you’re surrounded by those window treatments, you get to know people as individuals before learning their politics, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, or ethnicity.
I got to know their beverage of choice, their marital status, marital problems, their musical preferences, their medical bills, their children, their humor, their snark, their warmth, their intelligence, their knowledge, their support. Only after all of this, did I learn who went to church 3 times a week, read their devotionals twice daily, doesn’t believe at all, is a lapsed Mormon, pro-life/pro-choice, support gun restriction/own 10 guns, etc. I. love. this. Every day, I love it. We don’t always agree, and sometimes discussions can get pretty heated, but there is a respect for each other as human beings, individuals with complete lives, brains and hearts, opinions formed from our individual and varied life experiences. I get upset when my online friends cross from questioning and debating into arguments and blind rhetoric.
Through my online community, built from friends drawn from several different forums with vastly different focal areas, I don’t feel so provincial anymore. I feel better informed and better equipped to form opinions. I “live” in a new neighborhood, all of my neighbors chosen for commonalities but not sameness, mutual love, support, respect, and compassion. Yanno, all that squishy stuff.