Basically, I just spent as much of the past three days as humanly possible hooked into a live webcast - the wonderful Making of CMD live-a-thon. I watched live as a bunch of people I'd never met watched geeky TV shows and movies and played tabletop RPGs in order to motivate people to back their Indiegogo campaign. Soon I logged into the chat to take part in the conversation. And at one point I even turned on my own camera and left it on while having dinner, brushing my teeth and even took the laptop to bed with me.
I never thought I'd do that. Like, ever.
To grasp the _full_ extent of what happened you need to know the following three things about me:
- I never even opened Chatroulette. Not once. Just wasn't tempted. (I didn't watch KillCam Live either.)
- I'm naturally wary of masses of people since I firmly believe that being in a throng of people rapidly lowers each subject's IQ in a fast-spreading virus of dumbness. I'm convinced a large enough congregation of people will eventually try to trample me like a herd of snow-blind mammoths. Granted, they can't do that as well on the internet as in real life but the trolls sure try anyway. Hence the wariness.
- I tend to avoid the front side of cameras. And by "tend to avoid" I obviously mean "religiously flee from".
- I went online to watch people do mundane things.
- I participated in a huge chatroom.
- I turned my camera on and didn't give a flying fuck about how my hair looked or what I was wearing.
The #geekify webcast simply drew me in and, in fact, I find myself missing it/them terribly today.
So what exactly happened there? Sure, yes, the CMD team knows how to be entertaining so I was watching entertainment if you boil it down to that. But what I think really did a number on me and quite a lot of other viewers was the insta-family effect of it all. That inherent feeling of belonging. Not just with the team but also with the other chatters. Us geeks, we seem to flock together much faster than other birds of a feather. I've witnessed it a couple of times now, the way geeks form friendships and it's amazing. Magnets have nothing on us once we sniff out another geek we find likeable. National Geographic would be fascinated would they deign to study our species.
Obviously, the familiarity brings a certain danger with it, namely of getting lulled into believing that America, April & al. are "totes our BFFs now" but I'm convinced none of us are delusional enough to think that. What I do believe though is that foundations have been laid for some genuine relationships that will surpass the length of the live-a-thon.
For instance, I do not doubt for a second that the CMD team will stay in touch with the more avid of the chatters (one of whom even stayed awake for a whole 65 hours to support the project!). Some chatters are now following each other on twitter, are connecting on facebook or other social networks.
So yeah, I totally went online and possibly made new friends.
Some people may think that's weird. Non-geeks might write it off as "fake online friendships" but that's the thing with people who embrace the interwebs in all it's glory (and with all its troll-infestiation too): We truly, genuinely open up to each other there just as much as we would "in real life". We - literally - turn the camera on and show our faces. It takes an incredible amount of trust and faith but the reward is great as well.
In many cases the groundwork for proper friendships has been laid - how much or how far only time will tell, obviously but the thing is we connected just like people might connect while going out dancing or to the pub. And just like them some of us will become friends, acquaintances or simply a faded memory of "remember that epic three day live-a-thon we participated in".
And no one gets to say it is "not real" just because it is not physically tangible. In fact, I propose we get rid of the judgmental dichotomy of "online" and "real life", let's just make do without, okay? Because the #geekify live-a-thon was real just like your Friday night at the pub or your volleyball match or your rubber band convention was. America Young and April Wade brought us together, acknowledged our presence and conversed with us and I will be eternally grateful for this amazing thing I got to be a part of.
The interwebs, it's "real life" too.