Traveling full time means that we change the community we are a part of every 1-2 months. It’s an odd life in that way, some cities we make tons of friends, friends that I know we’ll probably have the rest of our lives and there are some cities in which we don’t meet tons of people and stay more to ourselves. But the one, consistent community we do have is our online community.
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? The one constant in our life is the crazy day in and day out lives of people we have never met in real life, or people who we have met briefly.
Almost every day I meet a few new people online, be it facebook or twitter or right here on the blog. I get e-mails from strangers who detail their greatest fears and hopes regarding their health, I get hate mail from people who are angry with me, I get encouraging e-mails, I get simple notes and I get invites for lunches, brunches and potlucks (as vegans tend to do best).
Online community is something that few people truly understand. I feel that my husband and I have a different way of life, the online community life.
This week, a community that I am very close to, a community that is centered around a blog (not vegan related) lost one of it’s family members. It really does feel like family there – maybe a bit better than family as you can choose who you communicate with and talk to. This family is an odd bunch (I can say that, I’m one of them). I don’t think any of us would have just found one another and started hanging out. We are all uniquely different. Different backgrounds, different beliefs, different in so many ways, but the same in so many ways at the very same time.
This online family of mine is one that I would do anything for. If someone is in need, we all jump up and do what we can, no one asks questions, no one complains, that’s just what we do.
We may not always 100% agree with one another, but it just doesn’t matter, because when you are part of a family, when you want community you learn to love people for what is best about them.
Last week the author of this certain blog wrote, what I’m sure was the hardest thing she has EVER had to write. One of our blog-family members was involved in a fatal accident, in which she was struck by a van while crossing a street in LA. This person was close to all of us in this community, we all interacted on a daily basis, some met up with her when they could if they happened to cross paths. But it was someone who we knew through comments, through facebook conversations, through online chats. Someone who most of us probably talked to more than even our own flesh and blood family. We all got to see her ups and downs, her dreams pursued and the frustrations she had.
A lot of people don’t understand online community, how it bonds people, how it brings people of all backgrounds together. Online community, to me is more like a tribe, a tribe of people you pick to be around, pick to interact with and choose to have as a part of your daily life. We share things like what we had for breakfast, or our latest political rant or relationship status, things that not even the closest of our friends and family are privy to most of the time.
Last week, as we waited as a online tribe together, waited for news about someone in this tribe, we rallied together. We offered support, we had short conversations online making sure everyone was ok. We were all refreshing the blog, checking FaceBook constantly, writing, re-writing, some offering prayer, light, good wishes, candles, chants. We all just did what we could do.
And then the news, the finality of it all came to us. We rallied once again, we held up one another through comments, facebook status updates and IM’s. When we found out that her family (her children that she left behind) and her best friend in LA were in need of help, in need of financial help for the massive burden of such a tragedy we all started to rally again.
Someone most of us had never met had passed away and this community reached from all corners and loved the best way we all know how.
It’s a funny thing about online community, we might bicker and fight we might not always agree, we might find our best friends for life, we might know the seemingly mundane details of our lives, and at the same time we might not ever meet.
This week I lost a friend, someone I had never met, but I knew what her neighbors were doing, I knew what she had for breakfast, I knew what she found funny or irritating, I knew what her hopes and dreams were. And in the end, that’s all we can ever ask, isn’t it? To know someone from the 140 characters or less they tweet, a status update or a comment. We are all connected on deep levels, even when we just know the bits and pieces of our daily lives, after all, it’s the bits and pieces who largely make us who we are.
We live our lives in part, online in a vast sea of people, and we find our tribes, we thrive together, we laugh together, and we grieve together.
Although, saddened by the news of this tragedy I knew that the only way I would not have been grieving her loss was if I had never known her, never know the small and big things that made her, her. To know someone is a great risk, because we risk the grief that may come if that person should leave our lives. But this is a choice we make. We choose to love and to know someone in whatever capacity possible. It is our choice if we decide to join a tribe online, if we decide to care. And in the end, should something so tragic happen, we must realize that the reason that it is tragic is only because we decided to make the choice to know that person and to care.
I chose to care for this person, chose to read about her daily life, chose to write short e-mails here and there and my grief for her passing is only because of that choice to have her as a part of my life – at least my online tribal life.
The world lost a beautiful person this week, but I am glad that I knew enough to understand and realize that the world indeed did lose someone like my friend, Benjamin, because the alternative is something I never would want – not knowing her.
We make these choices every day, to know someone or not to, and today I’m glad I know so many people who are a part of my day to day life, real life or online tribal life. And I am thankful.