Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Internet Neighborhood

There's a story I've read, which goes something like this: An old man and a little boy sit on their stoop. A car pulls up. "We're looking to move. Is this a nice neighborhood?"  The old man asks about their old neighborhood. "Oh, it's just awful. Nobody cares about anybody else, and kids run up and down the streets yelling and being disruptive. We're glad to be moving away." The old man looks at the couple in the car and said, "I'm sorry, but that sounds just like this neighborhood." The couple, disappointed, drives away.

A second car pulls up some time later and asks the same question. The old man asks them about their old neighborhood. "It was wonderful! We had such good friends there, and we're really sad to be leaving. Everyone was so kind, and people really cared about their neighbors." The old man looks at the couple in the car and says, "You're in luck! That's just the way this neighborhood is." Excited, they thank him and drive away.

The boy turns to the old man and asks him why he said different things about the neighborhood to the passengers of the two cars. The old man turns to the little boy and says, "Your neighborhood is what you make of it. If it's full of nasty, uncaring people, that's probably because you are nasty and uncaring. If your neighborhood as full of kind, caring friends, it is because you are a kind, caring person."

We can't control some things in our geographic neighborhood. We can't control if families are going through a divorce (and yelling at one another in their yards while I'm just trying to walk the dog, forthelove), or when a family loses an income and their house is forclosed upon. Some things happen that we can't control. It is true, however, that when we are good neighbors, the people around us tend to be good neighbors as well.

This is even more true in our virtual neighborhoods. 

The Internet is a big place, much too big to be described by words such as "nice," "bad," "friendly," or "scary." The Internet is all of those things. Each of us carves our own niche out of it, and the Internet as we experience it is based on those choices.

I love my Internet. It's filled with blogs of people with interests similar to my own as well as a few that cause me to rethink my positions and beliefs. It's filled with photos of beauty like this:

Queen Red Lime Zinnia from Burpee

and ideas of wonderful things to make like this:
 Sculptural copper coil vases from Design Sponge --I haven't made it yet, but I will

My Internet teaches me how to make a quilt, and then shows me beautiful fabric I can use to make it.

My Internet teaches me how to purl with my left hand, shows me stunning things people have created, and lets me help mend the world. It helps me stay in touch with friends and make new ones.

I've become preoccupied with the idea that the way we spend time online says so very much about what sort of person we are and what we value.* The trick, of course, is to take the beauty and kindness that I find on my Internet and put it into practice in my non-virtual life. The goal should be to fill my life and the lives of those around me with beauty, creating things that make us all happier. I succeed sporadically at that, but my hope is that writing this post will help me to keep that goal foremost in my mind. We are what we write, what we read, what we search, what we buy, what we borrow, what we create.

What is your Internet neighborhood like?

*I also feel this way about my library card, and I've often been tempted to check out more intellectual books so I won't look like someone who only reads Agatha Christie books, watches Northern Exposure, and looks at knitting patterns. Truth is, that's who I am.

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