[personal profile] teafeather
In a
previous entry
I stated my reluctance to talk to people about the things I like. One of the things I spend a fair amount of time and energy doing is participating in online communities, and one community in particular. I've been a member of this community (starting from when it was an email list) since about 2001/2002 (not really sure because the original archives are gone).

In its current incarnation, my community is a web-based forum for people with disabilities. Previously it was a collection of email discussion lists on a variety of disability topics, with a separate list for different categories of disability. When, in 2006, it became apparent to the lists' owner that these formats were becoming unwieldy and Yahoo!Groups was becoming unreliable and having security issues, the groups were merged into one comprehensive forum. I was invited to be a moderator on the forum and accepted.

I think my participation in the forum -- as a frequently posting member and as a moderator -- has made me a better person. I know there's plenty of concern-trolling naysayers out there who think that online communities are fake at best and detrimental at worst, but that hasn't been the case for me, especially as a person with multiple disabilities. There's been some bad stuff, a handful of people who were banned for abusive behavior or trolling.

For the most part, it's been good. I've learned a lot from interacting with people on the forum that I wouldn't have from just passively reading stuff elsewhere. I've encountered perspectives from people with a variety of disabilities, ranging from teenagers to seniors, multiple ethnic and racial groups, from all around the world. I've learned how to manage conflicts in groups and how to explain to people that they need to change their behavior and re-evaluate their choices. I've learned about strategies, techniques, and tools that help me live a better life as a human being in general and as a disabled person in particular.

In the world of digital text-based communication, I experience fewer barriers than I do in meatspace situations. I don't have to worry about transportation because my community is as close as the nearest computer and internet connection. I can adjust the font size and color scheme to suit my vision and don't have to worry about compatibility with my screen reader software because the site admin is committed to accessibility. Although transmission of information on the internet is instantaneous, the format of the web-based forum allows me the the luxury of re-reading people's statements and composing my responses carefully in a way that real-time, speech-based communication does not. Everyone wears a nametag so I don't have to worry about faceblindness. I can set up my environment to minimize distractions and sensory overloads in my home while reading and posting that I can't realistically expect in other environments or where groups meet in person.

I realize that online discussion communities don't work for every person or every topic, but for me, participating in this community is an important part of my life.

Thank you for this post

Date: 2011-03-12 12:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aftergadget.wordpress.com
I enjoyed this post. I found you thru the diz blog carnival. (Yes, I'm still catching up with Feb.)

I, too, have lived more and more in the virtual world since I became disabled and get to interact with a lot of people (almost all of them) who I would not be able to, due to disability/access issues, IRL. (I love the term, "meatspace.")

I particularly enjoyed you talking about it making you a better person. I wouldn't have thought of it in those terms until I read this post, but I do think entering the blogosphere and interacting with more people that way has made me much more aware and brought the "people" into the "issues" in a way I never experienced before.



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