Sometimes technology has a way of touching us in the most unexpected ways.
I joined Google Plus during its infancy, within the first month during the throttled-invite-only phase. I must confess, I was courted more by the exclusivity of it all than because I was so very anxious to join another social network. All I knew was that you had to be invited and that it was only 1 week old.
It took me only a week or so to drum up the courage to join a Hangout, a feature that allows you to video chat with up to 9 other people from pretty much anywhere. It was scary, my palms were sweaty and they were complete strangers. In fact, everyone I interacted with on Google Plus was a stranger. And yet, there we were, saying hello, responding to posts and exchanging ideas down threads of conversation.
I really had no idea what was in store for me. None. If you told me then where I’d be now, I would have said you’re insane.
Once I recovered from the initial nervousness I realized everyone else was in the same predicament. Some hid it better than others, or were just inherently more comfortable with the medium; however Google Plus was too new for anyone to be established at Hangouts. As the comfort level grew, so did my enjoyment and love of Hangouts.
As a single mom, I don’t get out much these days. The boys are in bed early but I am up for hours still, a night owl and social by my very nature. Hangouts give me the opportunity to connect with people from all over the world, to sit up late at night and converse, argue, debate, listen to music, explore the internet and ultimately forge some incredible new connections and relationships.
Over the past 6 months I’ve been able to broaden my horizons in fantastic ways. I was introduced to dubstep (yes, I know!) through a music Hangout. I’ve gotten to know more about the remarkable differences and intriguing traditions of other cultures through direct chat with strangers I may never see or meet. I’ve randomly helped a few strangers through small donations. I’ve seen exotic locations through mobile Hangouts and had discussions on everything from food to health care to love won (and lost) .
There have been some incredible, personal stories shared with me. Some publicly in comments on threads and some far more privately. I’m always touched when virtual strangers open up and tell me more about what makes them, them.
After posing a question, what book really seized your imagination and got you to start reading I was astounded at some of the deep answers shared with me. Behind the curtain of a monitor people shared parts of themselves few people share face to face. I read about one person using books to fulfill the role models they never received from their own parents; another shared his personal work experience with one of my favorite authors.
Similar stories, moving and emotional came after a post about dating single parents. I cherish each time people shared themselves with me. Everything from a mother’s death, to the loss of a twin, to surviving childhood cancer, to orphaned adults alone for the holidays…job loss, promotions!, gift exchanges, sharing of that one little link you know will matter to someone, exposure to new music – so much to explore, but all of it in a very personal matter.
What this has really boiled down to, for me, is that all those random, strange “internet people” have become so much more. Connecting through common interests rather than common locations, I feel like I’ve had this amazing opportunity to explore the people that make up the internet.
So what happened to me? I wound up on a cruise with some of those “internet people” and had the absolute time of my life. I challenge you , who’s out there waiting for you to get to know them? Who haven’t you met yet? What haven’t you learned about yet?