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!