When the Internet was first exploding back in the late 90s, it was fashionable to say that it would turn us into a world of loners, individuals hammering away at our computers, immersed in the virtual world, ignoring the real one. What the culural critics missed is the way the Internet creates communities united by shared interests in a way that nothing else could, and the way these communities can and do cross over into the real world.
In 2004, while I was out of radio entirely, I started writing a blog about music, mostly about the 70s. I did it mostly because I missed being on the air and thought that it might be a substitute. Eventually, I eventually began to incorporate stuff about radio, from my experiences as a broadcaster and a listener. I had no idea if anybody was reading it, but after a while, I discovered that people were. I'd write, they'd read and leave comments or ask questions, and a dialogue was born. Many of my readers had blogs of their own, which helped to expand the community and give it additional dimensions. Today, our community is remarkably vibrant and interesting. If I have a question about some obscure record from 1972, for example, I know who to ask, and I often find myself answering such questions for others.
It's hard to imagine how such a community might have developed without the Internet. Yet the cultural critics would say that this kind of friendship, conducted via blogs, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter, is no substitute for physical reality. It may surprise you to learn that I agree. Eventually, you find yourself wanting to look these friends in the eye, shake their hands, hear the sound of their voices, and drink beer with them. (Beer is another interest many in my community share, but your mileage may vary.) I've been able to meet in the real world several people I first met online. There are many more I'd like to meet, but they're spread quite literally across the world. Someday, I hope we'll manage to occupy the same physical space at the same time. If not, that'll be OK too.
That blog I created in 2004 still exists today, by the way, and I still update it whenever I can, so I hope you'll click over sometime. It's at http://jabartlett.wordpress.com.