A lot of people are surprised when they find out I’m a Nine Inch Nails fan. I get that weird, surprised look, usually accompanied by a response like, “Really? You don’t look like one…” (Of course, this only makes me wonder what I’m supposed to look like. Black hair, perhaps? Goth makeup? Emo expression? )
My Online Community Experience
Back in the day, I joined an online forum called The Spiral, which was the official NIN fanclub at the time. At first, I hung back and lurked, trying to get a feel for the place. There were about 40,000 plus members from all over the world, so there were lots of ‘rooms’ and threads to check out. Eventually, I got up the courage to post in the thread where I felt the most comfortable.
Over the next few years, I logged on to The Spiral regularly, and became friends with a group of girls who were regulars in that thread. At first, we talked mostly about NIN, but after spending so much time together, our topics drifted to other things, and we got to know one another as more than just fans of the band. We were there to support one another or cheer each other on through the bumps that life threw our way. (We also laughed a lot. )
Eventually, as the band went on tour again, we began to hatch plots to meet up at a show. It seemed totally normal to me, but I got some strange looks when I mentioned to people I was going to the States to meet some friends I had met online for a NIN concert… (And of course, the first one I went to was in Detroit, and I took the Greyhound there by myself just after the whole decapitation incident, which probably didn’t help.)
As it turned out, none of my online friends were serial killers, and we had an awesome time.* In fact, I went down for another NIN show a few years later in Charlotte to meet some more friends who couldn’t make it to Detroit. When The Spiral was eventually taken down, we kept in touch, and are still friends on Facebook.
*Caveat: If you don’t know your online friends that well, or have reason to suspect they might be serial killers, obviously I don’t recommend arranging a meet-up. Either way, be smart and safe at all times.
Why connecting online works:
You can make a real connection with other people who share your passions/interests.
Once you find common ground with a topic you’re both excited about, you can branch out from there. (Don’t get me wrong, you will still come across people who share your passion that you don’t end up clicking with, but chances are that won’t be everyone you meet.)
You can be as social or introverted as you want.
I’m a major introvert. I really liked that I could just not log on when I wasn’t feeling sociable. Other people would be logged in all the time, which also works since you have people from all different time zones hanging out and wanting to chat.
You can choose who you want to be.
You get to design your online personality, usually with an avatar, description, etc. Of course, it’s better if your online personality reflects your real life personality, but your online persona might be amplified in some way.
My Spiral handle was katana. I was the crazy girl who made weird Photoshop images of the band and awesome animated gifs. Being katana felt different from being Jacqui. I felt both more outrageous and confident at the same time. Some people still call me ‘kat’ even now, which is totally cool because it brings back that mindset.
Anyway, that’s my ramble on making authentic online connections.
What has your experience been like? How have you made authentic connections online?
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