Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Internet Angels

About a month ago, the National Catholic Register printed a letter to the editor about the danger and deception of online relationships. I did not read this letter myself, but followed the reactive threads on a few blogs I read regularly. Specifically, this letter claimed:

"Bloggers act as though they are buddies who really know each other, who have actual involvement in one another’s lives. I think this 'virtual community' is an illusion at best, dangerous at worst. The blogosphere isn’t a real community."

I didn't feel particularly compelled to write about this at the time, but in the last few weeks my opinion on this matter has become much stronger.

I enjoy my online community and the friendly relationships I feel I have developed with regular commenters on this blog, many of whom I have never met. I like reading their blogs (even though I myself am an admittedly infrequent commenter) and seeing their comments on mine. When I read of a trial that a fellow blogger is having, I stop and pray for them. Sometimes I even add their intentions to our family's evening prayers (prompting "who's that?" questions from the kids). This feels quite real to me and I am convinced of the power my prayers have for them, no matter where or who they are. Prayers are prayers.

In the past month, I have put up several posts about things going on in my life that have received incredible support from my online community. I have been so touched by the comments and promises of prayers from people who don't know me beyond this blog. I have received good advice, understanding, and encouragement from the blogosphere, and I most definitely believe it is a real community.

Today, for example, I learned that Father Augustine, a Benedictine monk from the U.K. who learned about my pregnancy complications from a reader, said mass for me yesterday. How is this not real? Is the reader who shared my concerns with him not a real friend, regardless of how anonymous she is to me personally?

I understand, of course, that not all online communities pure and good. Some are just the opposite. But this one, comprised of mostly Catholic moms intending nothing but to support and inspire each other, is a really, really good thing.

The letter to the NCR goes on to speak of the danger of abandoning one's real family in favor of nurturing online relationships, which I suppose could be a valid concern in a few, isolated situations. But if the little free time we moms have after our children are in bed can be spent encouraging each other in our vocation, how can this be bad?

Being a stay at home or homeschooling mother can be very isolating. Finding like-minded mothers, or even parenting literature to support you can be difficult. The Internet, blogging in particular, has opened a door for people all over the world with similar ideals to bond together. Just because its happening on a computer screen instead of in the living room doesn't make it any less real or valuable.

Thank you, to all of you who read and comment so encouragingly on this blog. I appreciate you very, very much!


Heather said...

I know just what you mean. In the short time that I have been blogging, I have found wonderful support and I have been able to pray for many, many people whom I otherwise wouldn't have known. I think it enriches our own lives to learn about communities other than our own. What better way to do that than through communicating with people in other communities?

Michelle said...

A century ago, people wrote letters to others - someone might suggest a sister who needed encouraging or an elderly man who was lonely. Valid relationships ensued, despite never actually meeting face to face. If physical presence is necessary to have a "real" relationship with someone, did I still have a "real" marriage when my husband was deployed for a year? How can we have a "real" relationship with God who remains unseen?

I can't bring you a meal when the baby comes, Suzanne, and I can't have your kids over to play so you can rest. But I can pray that the diabetes is under control and that the delivery goes well and that the baby is healthy. Seems like a real friendship to me!

Jennifer F. said...

I totally agree. When I first discovered the Church last year, I knew nobody in my regular life who was Catholic or even religious. Without the support I received on my site and reading about the daily lives of other Catholic women, I don't think I'd be nearly where I am today in my faith. For me, the support I received was very real, even if I never met most of the people in person.

Mom of boys said...

I agree with you 100%! I feel the internet is a place where I can voice my frustrations and share my joys without hearing negative responses as to our choice to stay at home and homeschool. I find tremendous support and wonderful ideas in others' posts (although I also am an infrequent commenter!).

Thank you so much for writing this!

PS - Loved your vehicle!

nutmeg said...

You are so right. I actually think that in some cases, it's easier to meet "virtually", b/c then you learn all about the person with no pretenses being put in the way, and no "judging the book by it's cover". So that when you finally meet in person, you already know so much about that person, it's like meeting an old friend.

No, I'm not a weirdo that can't handle "in person" friendships, :) but since I can be really shy around people I don't know, I usually get written off as a snob.

When I actually have a lot to say. (as you can tell....)