Fresh Ideas: Getting to know my neighbors on the web

This month I qualify for Medicare. To some that may seem quite ancient, but as Monty Python says, “I’m not quite dead yet.” What I’ve been figuring out since I retired a few years ago is even at my advanced age, I’m still learning.

For example, I’m learning how much exercise I need to simply maintain my weight. Answer: Way more than I want to admit. Furthermore, while I’ve been writing these columns for 15 years, I know next to nothing about writing fiction. That little nugget of truth was revealed when I submitted what I thought was a nearly completed novel for critique to Lone Mountain Writers about five years ago. My steep learning curve continues.

Something else I learned is a writer is expected to have a blog. I resisted. What would I write? Maybe something that wasn’t quite column-worthy? A mini-memoir? A book review? A petty rant?

Several writer friends do their blogging at Wordpress, so that’s where I started. It’s free and relatively user-friendly. One kind friend even helped me get set up. Still, I felt I was missing something. I mean who was ever going to find my blog? Who would I want to find it?

Somewhat hesitantly, I registered for Blogging 101 (aka Blogging for Dummies) at Wordpress. It was free and attendance was virtual. Within the first day, I learned I’m neither the oldest nor the dumbest person in the blogosphere.

Think of a blog as a home out on the worldwide web. The blogging class helped me move in and get settled. It helped me choose paint colors, arrange the furniture, and hang the pictures. As the class continued, we introduced ourselves and met our neighbors. We ventured out on field trips and learned our way around the global neighborhood. We learned to find and follow other blogs. We helped others find us.

The big emphasis was on building a supportive online community. All the high-tech doo-dads were merely tools to more clearly communicate our ideas and connect with one another. I learned a lot.

I discovered an infinite variety among my blogging neighbors. While some were newbies like me, others had run multiple blogs for close to a decade. There were grandfathers sharing photos of their own backyards and grade school girls documenting science experiments.

It turns out blogging is just people sitting down for a chat, sharing what they know, what they’re struggling with, or what they’re proud of. However, instead of sitting across the table, they’re sitting across the world. Literally.

There are blogs devoted to every known disease, trauma and human condition. There are blogs that focus on travel, vegetarian cooking, organic gardening, photography, quilting, fitness and stand-up comedy. As in real life, I found myself fascinated, bored, or amused. I rolled my eyes, nodded in agreement, or laughed.

You see blogging, for all its technological wizardry, addresses the universal and human need to belong and to connect. While it may seem counterintuitive, blogging might help us to feel less isolated, less alienated. Perhaps our participation in a diverse, virtual community will increase our capacity for understanding and acceptance of people in real life. That’s a good thing, right?

So step out onto the worldwide web and meet your neighbors. But mind your manners. Even in the virtual world, kindness matters.

Lorie Schaefer’s blog can be found at She invites you to stop by and say hello.


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