This week has been stressful in my online communities (fancy talk for message boards). I don't know if it's a seasonal change caused by fall's arrival or if this is just a turn in the lifecycle of message boards.
One of my favorite message boards of all time was set to close this week. I had not posted for a few months for various reasons, but once in a blue moon I'd peek in to see what was going on. I just happened to drop in when the announcement was made about the closing.
This group involves a sizeable group of people, mostly women with similar interests in matters of the home. They've gathered daily for some years now, in various configurations with various host companies. Each change has been painful as people adjusted to boards that looked different or functioned differently. But for the most part, they took the changes in stride after a little grumble.
This change was sharply different. The original owners of the board were caught by surprise when the hosting company decided it was getting out of the message board business. Their original decision was to close the board and not look for a new host. One of the owners was retiring because of health issues, so it seemed a logical time to say goodbye.
But the community would have none of that! Frantic attempts were made to find existing groups they could take over. Some started temporary boards just to stay in touch. Others scattered to parts unknown in little clusters.
The majority of the group, however, managed to stay together when an associate of the original owners offered bandwidth for the message boards to be transferred to.
So the original board still lives on,which is wonderful. For once there is little grumbling, because those who made the move are so grateful to still have a place to gather together. Sure, there were some folks who stepped away to find new homes, or who declined to make the move for personal reasons. But the bulk of the group is intact.
These people have community. They have forged real friendships from the blips on a computer screen. Many of us have traveled cross-country to meet each other at conferences. Many more maintain friendships off the board through e-mails and phone calls.
It's pretty amazing to witness. Even without their physical bodies being present in the same location, these women have created bonds that will overcome almost anything. The internet has become their kitchen table, their back fence.
On the other hand ...
There are about three other boards that I check fairly often. I tried to participate in them, really I did. There were people I liked at each board. But in the past month, all three have fizzled. One of the boards hasn't had a new post in a week or more. One has turned into Bickerfest. One is so lame it's no longer worth bothering with.
So I have removed my bookmarks to these places. It's time to close those doors and find better things to do. As much as I liked some of those people, they are more like characters in a TV show. No depth. No soul. Just blips.
The people I have met in our circle of bloggers are genuine. Unlike most message boards, we talk about things of the heart -- things that really matter to us. Some bloggers are academicians; most of us are writers (whether they've ever thought of themselves as writers or not); most of us have a deep tie to "place" as well as "relationship." We thrive on the interaction of reading and commenting on each others' writings.
It's an interesting mix of people. That's why I can't go a day without checking out everyone in the circle. You all are real.
As it happens, Tech on Harbor Street (http://51313.blogspot.com/) posted this evening about this topic too. Please look at his site -- great minds think alike!