The Importance of Online Community

Online community gets dissed a lot. I know, because sometimes I’m the one doing the dissing. It is true that online community is limited in what it can do. It cannot give you a physical hug, let you take a bit of it’s fettuccine alfredo, or bring a casserole to your house and sit with you as a palpable human presence as you grieve over a loved one. It doesn’t give you a deeper sense of belonging to your geographic community and landscape. But it can still do amazing things.

Ten years ago I sat sobbing on a friends porch. I thought I was going to be homeless. I had thought that if I could find my tent I could make a round of local state parks, camping for the maximum two weeks at a time, I could save up for an apartment before winter came. But I couldn’t find my tent. My family either couldn’t, or wouldn’t help me, or they were abusive people I didn’t need to be around. I had few friends. The situation that had led me to this impasse had been shocking, a series of lies and abuses that were a bit much for me to comprehend. My friend, a woman who is a truly magnificent person, recognized that I was an abuse victim and that I was suicidal. She got me the help I didn’t even know I needed. Looking back, that one friend saved my life.

Ten years ago I was in a tough spot and one friend helped me. I shudder to think what would happen if I didn’t have that one friend. Today I find myself in a tough spot, but certainly far less dire, and not only do I have local friends who have reached out, but people in other states, even other countries, who have reached out. That astounds me. I sent out a social media notice that I needed to move, and within 30 minutes I had a very kind offer. I mentioned I was stressed about moving funds, and an impromptu fundraiser brought me just enough to help me breathe easier. I am overwhelmed and grateful to be part of this community.

This fruitcake doesn’t look a day over 80…

There are really good things happening in online communities. Someone sends out a public or private call for help, and the community responds lovingly and generously. I was joking yesterday that there is a “money fruitcake” of about $100 in the Pagan community. It keeps getting passed along, as if it were a physical object. It goes to this blogger, then it gets passed to that elder. It pays for hosting costs, groceries, utility bills, funeral expenses, medical expenses, travel costs, and artistic projects. The cool thing about this money fruitcake, is that when you send it to others, it tends to find it’s way back to you.

It’s not just the Pagan community either. This happens in the various blogger communities, in online faith communities, in the atheist community, and most famously on Reddit. I have witnessed and participated in checking in on someone who made suicidal statements, on giving to important causes, on celebrating milestones, and in communal grieving online. I’ve made good friends online. Sometimes it is easy to only see the asshats running around, littering our online communities with nasty comments, tired arguments, and sheer, willful ignorance. There have been times I have had to convince myself to open my laptop. But really, our online community is just as strong, sometimes stronger, than our physical communities.

Physical is vital to our well-being, and to the future of our traditions. It’s just a fact. But our online community is absolutely amazing. It’s not all blowhards and asshats. It is real, caring, generous and loving people who support each other. I see it every day. Despite my grumpy nature, I do my best to participate in it. I should celebrate it more often. We are awesome.

So I would like to point out two kinds of awesome that deserve to be celebrated.

Kris Bradley has had a rough few weeks, but she is a big-hearted soul who would regularly make space for people to celebrate their joys, and space for people to ask for the help they need on her Facebook page every day. Kris is one of those kind and generous people who devote their time and efforts to building community simply out of love. Mrs. B deserves some major kudos for that. Go send her some love and appreciation!

Lamyka is one of those people that I would love to see get several thousand dollars of grant money just to see what she would do with it. Working multiple jobs while helping take care of her family, she currently runs three Pagan podcasts and a botanicals business as well. One of those podcasts is Pagan Women’s Podcast, where I am a frequent guest and often completely in awe of the amazing women I get to talk to. Recently I have gotten to discuss syncretist religion VS eclecticism with Anne Hatzakis of Greek Recon Mommy blog, and Pagan values in a secular world with Dee Herbert of Pagan FM. Lamyka works harder than anyone else I know, and she want to revamp her podcast hosting, and that is going to cost a bit of money. She’s started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise the few funds she needs, and I plan to pass along some of the fruitcake that boomeranged back to me over her way. She doesn’t need much, and meeting her goal would probably turn her into a puddle of grateful tears. She’s good people, so help her if you can.

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