We can make meaningful connections online.
The Internet promises to connect us with each other, yet despite Canadians spending an average of 24 hours a week online, nearly 40 per cent of us say that we are lonely.
On a rainy Sunday morning, I joined a Twitter sprint, hosted by Simon Fraser University’s Writers Studio. The studio is a part-time creative writing program emphasizing learning in community and training in the theory, craft and business of writing. The program hosts a bi-monthly public Twitter Chat. One monthly chat is devoted to a specific topic; the other is an online writing sprint.
Who do I find in the feed? There are two or three classmates, and previous graduates of the studio. There are other writers, people I do not know. We form a strangely public yet intimate circle. Some of the faculty joins, and we are writers together on the feed, stretching our writing muscles.
The sprint is not a race or competition. It is more like we are in a boat together on a wide sea trying to find the shore that is our work. The Internet, via Twitter, has provided us a way to gather out where the tides get tricky.
It is a mistake to think the people of the Internet are anonymous. These other writers are alive in my head, not in the one-dimensional way that people can seem online, but as whole flesh.
I imagine my co-writers in various analog nooks – some at desks looking out at rainy views, others in local coffee shops, spitting words into laptops to the spew and hiss of fancy Italian espresso makers. Some I picture like me, in pajamas, sitting in a corner chair, slippered feet tucked awkwardly beneath a MacBook perched on a cushion, feeling the fog and muddle of words pressing fast onto the page.
Between the sprints we visit the feed, posting word counts and encouragement. Scrolling, I discover Maple Ridge writers Katherine Wagner and Lynn Easton, both graduates of the writer’s studio.
Easton writes essays on intergenerational gender and class issues and recently received the Malahat Review Constance Rooke prize for her work.
Wagner is the founder of the Golden Ears Writers and a speculative fiction writer. Both of these local authors hold out a light that bounces in the fog, reassuring other writers.
I tweet to the thread, “Where are you writing?” Sareh is on her comfy bed, her children bouncing noisily around her. Christina is at her dining room table, longing for the completion of her writing room. Andrew is at his desk listening to Aimee Mann. His feet are cold. Angie, a warm-footed kindred spirit recommends slippers.
The Internet is not a panacea for loneliness — far from it. When we are on our devices, we are absenting ourselves from flesh and blood engagement. But the Internet can be an antidote to the kind of loneliness experienced by writers and other creatives.
It is also a place where we can find ourselves in the same boat with others, sharing interests and a common journey.
» Mike Davies writes for www.campbellrivermirror.com Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or send your feedback to email@example.com
Vicki McLeod is an author, TEDx speaker, and award-winning entrepreneur. She is a business and personal coach and consultant. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or find her at vickimcleod.com.