Everything is illuminated!
Though I’ve never read the critically acclaimed book by Jonathan Safran Foer, nor seen the motion picture based on it, I’m copping to the title. Everything is indeed illuminated.
I follow about 500 people on Twitter. Most of them occupy the world of advertising, new media and popular culture. A distinct minority represents the literary world, readers and writers like me. There are a few sports writers in there. Some fishermen. And lastly, there are the horror fanatics, providing me with links to the most obscure titles in the genre. Nasty!
In turn I am followed by numbers of people who also share my various affinities.
Whether you are on Twitter or not all of you are part of a microcosm as well. You follow your passions and the others that follow them. You belong to an ecosystem comprised of others like you, some very much so some not so much. But somehow you fit.
And that’s a modern miracle. Not too long ago many of us felt, at times, like outsiders. Maybe we were passionate about obscure poetry or intricate Scandinavian woodwork. Perhaps we suffered from a rare and misunderstood disease. We may have wondered why women’s shoes turned us on so much. Whatever the passion, hobby or fetish we often felt alone with it. If not for the occasional story in a magazine or newspaper, or a convention in some remote suburb, we seldom crossed paths with anyone like us. At times this made us feel unique. Mostly it sucked.
But then along came the Internet. I defy you to search a topic and come up empty. It’s not possible. If you’re into it you can find it. Frankly, you can get lost in it. I know I do.
Still, when I consider the alternative, I shudder. I am that boy in grade school who collected butterflies but had no one to share my hobby with. I knew I was different. I also wondered if I was weird. The other kids liked sports and G. I Joes. Yet, I wanted to raise Monarchs. No connection. As you might imagine, I dreaded recess. Had I had the Internet I could have shared my special interest with all kinds of people just…like…me.
Now I do. We all do.
With three little girls of my own, I understand some online communities are undesirable, even quite dangerous. Still, living in one’s head is no picnic either. Frankly, some of the worst neighborhoods I’ve ever visited were between my ears.
Being able to find others just like me is a Godsend. Even the most unusual among us can find community. We belong. Like I said: a modern miracle.