Maybe it’s because I work from home. Or am busy with two young kids. Or have technology at my fingertips. Whatever the reason, I find myself both wanting to “reach out and touch someone” and NOT wanting (or having the time) to leave my house. Does using a computer make me less likely to have meaningful relationships in the “real” world or does it make the “real” world more accessible?
Social media has given us opportunities to connect with people across the miles, but sometimes, I’m looking for an alternative way to have a conversation with my neighbor (for the love of Diet Coke, please please please stop revving up that Harley at 3am). This story about a local HIV/AIDS support group that’s begun to meet on Facebook got me thinking about ways that people can find advice and support online. How many people would attend support meetings but are embarrassed to discuss their symptoms, or have already taken enough time away from their jobs/friends/family and can’t spare another hour? How many might volunteer to help at the local schools but can’t work the meetings into their hectic schedules? People are out there, creating and maintaining support groups on Facebook (and on their own websites) that may not be the best place to a) disclose your identity or b) find professional medical advice, but do point to a variety of resources and help people connect with others like you.
There are many ways to share our experiences and tell our stories, and sometimes, just in the telling we start to feel better.
I wonder if social media could be similarly effective in terms of recruiting and organizing volunteers for organizations? How many of us who’ve worked all day have the time to go to a two-hour meeting on a week-day night? Even if dinner and childcare are provided, it’s still time away from the kids, their homework, the laundry… Surely there’s a better way that we can all get on the same page (or URL). I’m itching to try Ning, which is a social networking site that allows you to control membership and privacy for a small fee (has anyone used it??). I wonder what it might be like to have Ning-mediated PTA meetings?? This way, I can sip a glass of wine after putting the kids to bed, and tune in for an hour for a live chat in which we plan the second grade Halloween party… Is this utopian vision of volunteering possible?