It can be really hard to navigate friendships as a creative person. So many people walk through life just going through the motions, hardly noticing the flits and flutters of their own dreams. Sometimes I feel people look at me strangely when they understand that I have dreams beyond raising my daughters and working.
A year or so ago, I discovered Magpie Girl -- Rachelle Mee-Chapman -- who has helped me find my creative identity through various exercises.
But, it was early on when I read her e-book " of like-minded, creative people. That has turned into a small but beautiful book club. I hope to someday turn the idea into a retreat, as her book suggests.
This is not the first online friendship to lead me to amazing creative exploration. I've had many online friends over the last three years.
Rachelle is doing 30 Stories in 30 days in honor of her birthday this month. She's here visiting today, on my blog, to answer this question I asked her about In Real Life vs. Online friendships:
Q: How do you balance between IRL and online friendships? Are they the same or different for you?
Because of my deep dependence on online friendships during my 3 years abroad, I tend to think of IRL and online friendships as being very similar. For a long time there was great debate in the blogosphere about community and friendsh
ip online. Was there really a “there” there? My answer, unequivocally, is “Yes.”
We cannot always have our soultribe at nearby IRL (in real life). We might live in a community that doesn’t “get” us. We might live in a country where we don’t speak the language. We might travel a lot. We might be ill and unable to make the dinner party rounds. Thankfully, online community can help bridge the gap. With the advent of blogging, social networking sites like Facebook, and specific-topic communities managed by programs like Ning, there are lots of options for online connection.
When I moved abroad to Denmark the online community was a HUGE source of support, resource and camaraderie. Without the “there” that was there, I would have been completely isolated. As I left my IRL life friends on the other side of a 9hour time difference, the internet friends became my comfort and my colleagues. As my online friend Melanie Martin puts it, Twitter is “my tearoom” – a place to take a break from writing and have a chat over a cuppa. Facebook, IM chats, and Skype video talks kept me connected on work projects, and people I knew only over the internet like Leonie Allen and Susannah Conway became my coaches and colleagues. And over the years, both before and since Copenhagen, blog crushes and online pals have become friends, work partners and soulsisters IRL as well. Jen Lemen, Jennifer McGuiggian, Jolie Guillebeau, Becky Knight, Bethany Basset, J.Renee Pekol, and Jessica Schafer are all online acquaintances who have I have personally hugged. (Bethany and I even had our first IRL TweetUp on an overnight girl’s weekend to Rome!)
On the other hand, there’s something special that happens when you can meet someone face to face. I was recently able to meet up with photographer Darrah Parker, someone I previously knew only on line. In 90 minutes over coffee we were able to brainstorm and problem-solve more work related stuff than we could have in dozens of Tweets. And by meeting each IRL we got a more nuanced understanding of each other’s work and way of communicating.
Now that I’m back on home turf in Seattle, I have less time to run the social networking gauntlet online. But I still try to stay connected with online and IRL friends based on the same general rule of thumb. IRL I would spend time with people who
- Make an effort to keep in touch.
- Have interests that are similar to mine or which intrigue me.
- Who make me laugh; and who can have a meaningful conversation.
The same is true with my online connections.
I do have one warning sign that I am spending too much time online in general – when I started doing that vague clicking around thing, triple checking for new email/Facebook updates/tweets, and generally trying to find the miracle answer to what’s bugging me online. Do you know what I mean? When I start thinking the answer to life could be found if I could just find the right thing to click on, it’s time to log off!
What about you? How do you related to
your online and IRL connections? What are your warning signs for you that you are going off-balance with how you spend your time between the two? Is there a real “there” there for you in online communities? We’d love to hear your thoughts because “there ain’t know where to go but together.”
Rachelle Mee-Chapman, specializes in customized soulcare for spiritual misfits. She works with clients at Magpie Girl to help them find a spirituality that fits; and hosts Flock, an online soulcare community. You can learn more about her creative approach in her free ecourse, Magpie Speak: a new vocabulary for soulcare.