I have met thousands of people online, people I would never have met anywhere else. People who have made me think, made me laugh, touched my heart in so many ways. I love to meet new people now, but I admit, it wasn’t always this way for me. After my early college years, I became something of a cynic about humanity as a whole.
I have studied the teachings of great men and women who declared that it is impossible to hate humanity and to love oneself, but it always felt safer to try to stick to the latter as much as possible. They were right, as it turns out. Perhaps I’m late to the party and it’s been going on all this time without me. I was late to adopt Twitter and even later to embrace it. Facebook, for me, was largely about everyone I knew and everyone they knew. I never joined the global conversation, and sometimes found the conversations I was privy to dreary (there are just some things you don’t want to learn about a friend through Facebook).
The turning point, for me, came when I did the one thing I always hated Facebook for trying to force on me: I decided to go Public with my posts, not on Facebook so much, but on Google+. Why? Because the conversations I wanted to be a part of, didn’t interest “everyone I knew”. Which is fine, many of those people are still friends, and some of them may be having their own global conversations right now. I’m not judging what is right for anyone else, merely telling you what was right for me.
In the more than two years since I joined Google+, I have met thousands of people online, and have been overwhelmed by how positive and friendly most of them have been, how willing to engage in a good discussion on a topic of similar interest, or to lend a helping hand, and how open to forming deeper relationships and even friendship. Certainly there have been trolls, spammers, and wackos, but as such a small percentage of the people I have encountered as to seem truly insignificant. If you had ever told me that thousands of people would be interested, not just in my ideas, but in the person behind them, I would not have believed it, but as crazy as it still seems to me, it happened.
While these “followers” may think they’re the ones watching me, the truth is I feel far more like the observer. I have watched mothers bring new children into the world. I have watched couples separated by thousands of miles brought together in love through the magic of the internet, and watched couples already in love share that love as a glorious celebration for the world to behold. I have seen shy people find their voice, have seen people who struggled to find a purpose become passionately ambitious. I have directly shared ideas with minds that were once remote and inaccessible save for what words they wrote down on paper.
To have become a part of so many thousands of lives is like hiking out of your village into the mountaintops, and then to see the size of it all, beyond your little corner of it. There is so much greatness, so much goodness, so much love in this troubled species of ours, and sometimes I think, “If only everyone could see it this way! If only they could see that they’re not tiny, but enormous, never alone, but always so nearby to those who would help them!” Perhaps I am only just beginning to see it myself. This is what social media was always meant for: to bring us together.
There is a great big human family out there, even if we don’t always see it from our current place and level. I wasn’t seeing it, and even when it started to happen, the realization dawned slowly on me that it really is true what the Sages have always declared: most human beings are basically good, kind people who try to spread whatever goodness they can in the world.
I feel like I have been blessed by the internet with the biggest family on Earth, or the biggest one I could ever have imagined having at any rate, and while I’m sure my experiences meeting people on the web will not always be uplifting (as they already aren’t), and not every member of that “family” will come fully out of their shell and embrace it as I have, I will never forget the many great ones for the handful of rotten apples.