I wrote this essay for This I Believe on NPR and I haven't thought of it in a year, at least.
I believe people will always find ways to overcome and embrace our differences, and that belief is nurtured by the internet.
About a year ago someone suggested I started a blog, which is an online diary. As an aspiring author, I thought it sounded fun. But I didn't realized how communities gather around blogs, and sometimes readers evolve into something unexpected. Sometimes, somehow, they become friends.
None of us know each other in the conventional sense, but I am a part of a community of people from Ireland, California, Ohio, Australia, Baltimore, Washington, and Canada. We have different lifestyles and political views. Some of us are religious, some of us are not. We are stay-at-home moms, engineers, writers, students, grocery store clerks, and middle management. While some of us struggle through difficult marriages and raising kids, others laugh and cry their way through dating fiascos. When it's good, we realize we share similar viewpoints. When it's great, fierce political and social debates ensue, only to be resolved by grudging admittance of the importance of discourse in our pursuit to understand our world.
While those on the internet have a reputation for being shady and mistrustful, I've found honesty to be the most revered quality on blogs. Though identifying details are often shunned, sincerity is coveted. My alias comes with a certain obligation to be all of who I am. Sometimes it's tough to swallow the truth whole, especially when its my own. But acceptance by those on the internet allows my personal truth to bleed over into real life. I am more myself than ever before.
I've made one close online friendship. For months we commented on each other's posts, discussing the finer points of philosophy and fashion and religion and why people do what they do. One night we bridged the gap between acquaintance and friend by chatting online for hours. Now hardly a day goes by without an instant message or email. We are in abolutely different places in our lives, and our friendship is unconventional enough that we often analyze it together, trying to figure out why we, of all people, have connected.
I wrote this about him early on, when he first sent me his picture--always a tenuous gesture toward friendship in Blogland.
"There's no real connection between us but these stupid blogs. Only words, really, but powerful. I don't think I've ever told him all I learn from him, but every time I read him I learn valuable things that give me hope."
That hope stems from our shared need to connect. If the thousands of people who write and read blogs are any indication, we as a species will use whatever means we can to perservere through all that divides us.