Thursday, July 7, 2011

Community of One

I'm finding that most of my social interaction anymore is online, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I still get to see friends and family on occasion, but most of my outside-of-work, non-fiancée conversations are with total strangers. As I write this blog post, I am potentially striking up a conversation with you, and we may not even be acquainted.

Between the folks who sporadically comment on this blog, the GameCola staff I work with, and the Friends and Subscribers who hang out on my YouTube channel, I get a pretty solid social fix, aside from the fact that they're all imaginary. strangers. Although I have met a few of the GameCola staff members in real life, is a friendship or acquaintanceship any less valid without the face-to-face element?

I'm finding that it's easier to stay in contact with the people I've never met who make up my YouTube community than with most of my friends. I am exceptionally bad at keeping in touch with individuals over the Internet, and I suspect it's because of the investment involved in keeping the communication going on a one-on-one basis.

If two people carry a table somewhere, both of them need to put in roughly equal effor to keep it moving. It's fine to take a rest or for one person to shoulder more of the weight for a while, but when one side drops, there's not a whole lot the other person can do to pick it back up. Long-distance communication between individuals is, in my mind, a lot like carrying a table.

Keeping in touch with a community, on the other hand, is like having a bunch of people carrying the table. People can take turns carrying the table, and even if some of the people carry more of the weight, the table doesn't come crashing down if one of them suddenly leaves. I have some fond memories of carrying tables with my close friends, but I also appreciate being able to step back and watch a table essentially carry itself for a while.

There's a certain comfort in knowing that things go on without you. I am in the process of packing everything up and moving to a place I had never visited up until a few weeks ago, but my online community will still be there, same as always. Meanwhile, keeping in touch with the friends I'm leaving behind will require active effort on both our parts, and I can tell you from previous experience that I'm usually the one left holding the table.

More accurately, perhaps, I'm usually the one making offers to carry the table again. My general offer is that I'm always here; just drop me a line if you want to talk or hang out. If I were a character in The Sims, you'd notice that my Social meter fills up pretty quickly and depletes fairly slowly--I'm perfectly content to spend days or even weeks with minimal social interaction, which is why I rely on others to initiate conversation and propose get-togethers. I get wrapped up in my own activities and side projects, and it's all too easy not to look up from them until I desperately feel the need for company.

That could be why I'm so active in my YouTube community--making these videos and responding to comments are fun side projects, and by keeping on top of them, I'm keeping in touch with people. Two-for-one deal. I get my crucial Me Time and I get my essential social fix. I can very happily be a community of one.

I wonder if that's the key to maintaining regular communication in a long-distance friendship: integrating communication into your routine so that it doesn't feel like any extra effort is required to stay connected.

Alex and I only get to see each other about once a month, but we stay in constant e-mail contact primarily because of this blog. A lot of our exchanges are something to the effect of, "Hey, did you write a post for today?" "Wait, what? I thought you were supposed to post!", but we're still e-mailing at least once every few days. Even when there's nothing particularly new or interesting going on in our lives, we've got something to prompt us to stay in touch.

That being said, I've got a backlog of e-mails to respond to from my other friends, most of them involving Korean pop music videos. I might do better if I actually replied to people when they took me up on my offer to drop me a line.

No comments: