It's been said that writing is a solitary art at it's core. Audience is important - writer's write for someone usually, even if that someone is themselves. But solitary is lonely and isolating, and I've discovered that community is something as needful as words for me.
I joined Twitter tentatively, shyly, and mostly to get my fix of Neil-Gaiman-Wil-Wheaton-isms. These guys are as entertaining in 140 characters as they are on blogposts and in books. Like the proverbial paperclip often used in visualization and manifestation practices, suddenly everyone I knew was on Twitter and had been for a while. So I friended them, finding that many posted more often to Twitter than to their blog. Makes sense, 140 characters is easier to bash out on the fly than a long, composed post.
Twitter became my gateway drug to Facebook (yah everyone was doing it anyway, right?) and, what started as an experiment in social networking designed to exercise my inner geek-fangrrl, rapidly became my way to find and connect with writers and entrepreneurs and visionary artists and social activists and just generally cool and interesting people. I got swept up in FB games for about a month, then when one crashed, I realized that what I really wanted from FB and Twitter was community, people who were doing stuff like I was doing, usually more successfully, but always with heart and humor.
I was getting comfy with my small circle (blob? network? web?) of friends, but then the The Center for Babaylan Studies started a FB group. I became one of the editors of the Babaylan Files a few months ago, but it didn't quite capture my attention right away. It seemed like a vast project for a very small group of people. With the FB group, though, I discovered hundreds of people interested in babaylan practices, who, like me, had trouble finding good resources for understanding babaylan concepts. I had a purpose as editor and thankfully at the same time, new material about babaylans was emerging - the 2010 conference was taking shape. Video and text conversations were happening. Books and CDs were being reviewed.
On top of that, there were people who I'd 'met' in passing through that babaylan Yahoo group who were actually online when I was online. I could chat with them about concepts I didn't understand, practices I wanted to explore, and how to live a spiritual heritage. I 'met' new people who wanted to know what I thought about babaylan practices and the response to my offering the Tao Po! writing workshop has been incredible. I found community. I found connection. I found a place opposite of isolation.
Ironically, this has lead me back to the core, back to the solitary nature of writing, back to creating and sharing the stories I've been given to share. Balancing community and self will be tricky -- wait, let's reframe that -- it will be a dance to a rhythm I'm hearing once more.
I've learned a lot about social networks these past few weeks, what I like about them, who I enjoy being connected with, what the strengths and weaknesses of each site. A person could spend all their time leveraging social networks to do amazing things, but I never want to lose sight of the fact that for me, it's a dance between self and community, offering and receiving, and making things that were never there before through the power of story.