Few terms are as over-used as finding my tribe, but one of the most interesting side-effects of technology, the internet in particular, is the ease with which we are able to find our tribe, sometimes globally.
Remember AOL chat rooms? Back in those very early days of the internet, there was a chat room for every interest. EVERY interest. Chat rooms provided a veil of anonymity and with that came the ability to be ourselves, without fear. After all, we’d never meet these people in person, right?
Thank you, AOL!
As it turns out, two of my very closest friends and confidantes date back 20 years to AOL chat rooms, where we connected over words, attitudes, ideas and shared interests. In fact, we HAVE met in real life and have been able to stay intimates for two decades. The power of the internet.
I’m not great at cocktail party small talk –it bores me. No, I much prefer the meaty, meaningful conversations about the things that really matter to me, to others. And that’s what technology has given us: the ability to come together as ourselves, with no filter. I really do think that’s the only way a true friendship can form.
I follow so many woman bloggers midlife and older. I read their blog posts, converse with them on Facebook and have gotten to know them over the years through their words. They share their hearts, souls, attitudes, politics, laughter—they had in fact, become intimates that I’d not yet met in person.
That changed recently at a midlife women bloggers’ conference, where I got to meet women who had only been words on a screen. The experience did not disappoint.
I’m not starry-eyed about technology, but:
I found my tribe.
There’s Nancy, who I first met years ago at another blog conference, who did a spot-on Patty Smith impersonation, “Horses! Horses! Horses!” for me. Somehow she knew I’d get it. She knew that because she reads what I write. And I read what she writes.
Donna, my sister who’s different but the same, and who’s become a dear friend across the internet and now, in person.
There’s Elena, who started a Facebook blog group that I love. And Anna, with whom I’ve had shared the real stuff of life. And Kimberly, who markets the planner I love and use every day and who is one of the few with greater wanderlust than I.
There’s Kathy, with whom I share a spiritual bent and Jennifer, who sat in the pub with me and talked about life. There’s Pamela, who has inspired one of my dearest real-life friends, too. Elaine, who edited an anthology that one of my blog posts is in. There’s Joan, Walker, Anna, T.O., Lynne, Roxanne, Terri—and so very many, more. Many.
These very real connections with women so different than I and yet, so simpatico, were forged in the ether and cemented when we met in person. I knew them before I met them in person. I KNEW them.
This coming together as ourselves, no filter, is something so many of us are afraid to do in person. So often we tiptoe around, not sure if we can trust the other with who we really are, fearing rejection—which is far more difficult to handle than the fading away of an online friend.
Here’s the other thing. By the time we hit and then pass mid-life, we no longer see each other as competition. For anything. It’s so much easier to embrace one another. I found virtually every single woman I talked with at the conference–those names on a screen– to be warm, welcoming and just plain nice.
I’ve never been starry-eyed about technology. I still think social media can be a total waste of time if over-used and that technology has been as big a curse as a blessing.
But the one thing I do appreciate about it is that it’s helped me feel less alone.
It’s helped me find my tribe, and that’s no small thing.