I think everyone who is passionate about social media has a story about how they personally discovered the power of the collaborative, community-focused part of the web. I figure it might be time to share mine.
It was 2001, and I found myself with a Problem. Not a small problem. A huge, enormous, unsolvable, insurmountable “what the heck am I supposed to do now?” Problem.
I figured I had basically two options. Option 1 would be to give up, crawl into a metaphorical cave, and drink heavily bemoaning what a bitter pill existence turned out to be. Option 2 would be… not giving up.
As it turns out, I’m not really an Option 1 kind of person. In fact, if this whole Bard’s Tale is my own personal Hero’s Journey (or Heroine’s Journey, as the case may be), one of the boons I brought back was the knowledge that I’m not an Option 1 kind of person. Which, quite frankly, shocked the hell out of me and a whole lot of other people who had me pegged as a fragile, sensitive, quitting-friendly sort of person.
But I digress.
The problem was, I had no map for Not Giving Up. Figuring a way through this particular Problem was not something for which my own experiences and knowledge had prepared me.
There was Information available. I was a big fan of Information, particularly in Books. My library card was active and well-used. I found the Information helpful, but I soon realized I needed more than a Map. This was no mere jaunt to find a berry farm on a dusty gravel road. This was Frodo, ring clutched in his (her) hobbity little hand, staring out across Mordor. This was not a little side trip or detour in my life; it was being lost in the Himalayas.
I needed some Sherpas. Bad.
It started out as an attempt to find more Information. I had exhausted my local library, and drawn a rough map of what I hoped was a way out of the Problem. I’d started following my little map, and started seeing some signs that I might be headed the right direction. So I figured I would fire up my computer, log onto the WWW and see if there wasn’t more map-making Information to be found.
That’s when I stumbled upon it. A digital village at the foot of my own personal Everest. Attached to some of the Information I was looking for was something called a Forum. It reminded me of the old bulletin boards I’d posted to when I was in college back in the early 90s. There were people there. They weren’t experts looking down their erudite noses at me and my Problem from the pages of a Book.
They were regular, ordinary people–only some of them had gotten further up the mountain than I had. A few claimed they’d gotten to the other side. Most shocking of all was the fact that they were still there. They hung around after they had solved their own Problems, and helped others figure out a good route. They encouraged each other, and even the new people (the “Newbies“) cheered each other on, and shared whatever tips or help they could.
At first, I Lurked. I had nothing of value to offer, and so I waited till I thought I could provide something a little more substantial that “Hey, that’s great!” before posting. I commented on a few threads. A few people commented on my comments. Feeling emboldened, I decided to start a new Thread.
It was nauseating. What if no one read it? What if no one responded? What if someone DID?!
Someone did. A few people did. I kept posting. I kept working on the Problem that had originally driven me there. I learned more than I thought my brain could hold. Mostly to help myself digest and absorb all I was learning, I posted it on the Forum.
People responded. They told me that what I’d posted helped them. It was the BEST. FEELING. EVER.
I hurt people and got hurt. I flamed jerks and got flamed in return. I got scared when I realized that the ‘net can be full of genuinely scary people.
I started other Forums, where I encouraged people to participate, tried to keep people from being nasty to each other, worked with the Moderators to fend off wolves and Trolls, and eventually handed the reins over to others in the group who still had the time and passion for the subject matter.
So there you have it. Long as it is, it’s still the abridged version of the story. It’s that story that gives what I do for a living context and meaning. I know what story I’m in, and I know who I am in that story, and I know what part of the story I’m in–and that makes it infinitely easier to make even day to day decisions.
So if you’re bored with doing a standard, “five year plan” kind of look at why you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing right now, or if that approach isn’t quite motivating you, maybe you should take a different approach. Maybe you should look at your own story.
img courtesy nisey on SXC