Once upon an e-time, long ago and far away, there was a social networking site for writers, photographers, and artists of all kinds called Gather. I haven’t thought about this site much lately because, well, because it’s no longer there. The owners sold it, and the buyers only wanted the health site part of the owners’ holdings, and so Gather was deleted. All our photos, articles, discussions . . . gone. Though some people were perspicacious enough to copy and save those discussions, I was not one of them. Luckily, I was able to recreate some of the photo essays I posted on the site, those I was most proud of, such as Echoes, Deep Thought. Or Not, and Short and Witty Photographic Ditty.
Today, when I was talking with my sister about my upcoming trip, she mentioned how wonderful it was that I actually turned online friends into offline friends, and so I told her about two of the women I will be visiting on my way to Seattle. Then it dawned on me — I’d met both of those women on Gather. Not only that, it was my sister who had introduced me to Gather. She’d found a contest on the site that she talked me into entering. And that contest led the way to many new friendships.
It’s interesting to think how one small thing can reverberate through the years. I don’t know if my sister actually changed my life by her urging me to enter the contest, but she sure had an effect, and my life is richer for it.
Gather might have been the beginning, but I have since met others online through my blog or Facebook. Generally these folks started out as fans or fellow grievers and became friends. People often caution me about visiting people I only met online, but I have never had a problem. (Apparently, they haven’t had a problem with me, either, because almost all of them have remained friends.) Over the years, reading and commenting on each other’s blogs, seeing the photos of their families and vacations, participating in various discussions, you do get to know people. (It’s the same as offline, actually.)
I must admit, having people to meet along the way makes any trip a wonderland of possibilities — not just because of meeting the people themselves, but because of all the things they love in their area they want to share, things I would never have found on my own.
People who are fed up with the politics and policies on Facebook and who are looking for another place to hang out would be gravitating to Gather if it still existed. For a while, Facebook was an adequate substitute for Gather, but it is becoming increasingly unfun. (Which is one of the reasons I keep blogging — it makes me feel as if I am in control of at least a part of my online destiny.)
I can’t go back, but I can go forward, and forward means I will soon be meeting friends from Gather and elsewhere. I can hardly wait!
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Unfinished, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.