If you’ve been following along in my posts, you’ve probably noticed that I often like to mention that the internet is a community. You’re probably also wondering what I mean by that or how it can be possible when people are chatting with each other across countries or even continents. I feel that when people thinking of ‘community,’ they tend to focus on a tight knit group that works together such as a neighborhood or a church group, but according to dictionary.com, it’s “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests.”
So say, for instance, you and a group of people listen to the same type of music and talk to each other on a forum about it – this could be considered an online community. And the more you get to know and care for the people you share interests with, the more personable and absolute this community becomes.
I’d like to share with you my first hard-hitting and powerful recollection of an online community coming together to not only do something influential but life-changing as well.
About a year ago I was on tumblr scrolling through my dashboard when I began to notice a few posts being reblogged in the Supernatural fandom. They were talking of a young woman (let’s call her Sam) who was in danger and was asking for help. I clicked back to see the original poster, a girl who claimed to be best friends with Sam through talking to her online. She had reblogged an audio post that Sam recorded on her phone an posted to tumblr. I listened to it and was instantly horrified by a few scary noises and a muffled death threat. I was then able to go to Sam’s blog and find out about how her stepdad had been violent to her, especially recently. I also saw that she was a single mom living with her parents because she had nowhere else to go for the time being and that she had contacted the police about her situation before but they did not do anything.
I clicked back to her friend’s blog to see that she was organizing to arrange a place for Sam to stay, at least for the night. She listed places close to where Sam lived, hoping to reach out to someone who could house her friend that lived across the states. Suddenly her post blew up. The entire Supernatural fandom started reblogging it, including me. The post went from 5 notes to 20 to 100 to 1000, and somehow Sam’s friend was sorting through them all looking to see if anyone could give Sam a safe place to stay. In the end, it worked. Sam was able to get out of her house and take her child with her to a kind and generous person that was willing to take her in for a while until she got on her feet and could move away from her abusive stepfather.
Now, this wasn’t quite on a global scale such as the L Team mentioned in Andy Carvin’s Distant Witness, (which was a group of Americans who had extensive knowledge on warfare tactics and were tweeting them to help the Libyans who wanted freedom), but you can see how real the impact is. For Sam and her child, I’m sure our support meant the world.
Sam’s story definitely changed the way I thought about the internet. Normally the Supernatural fandom is constantly goofing off and making jokes about the show, but that night we all came together and got serious about helping one of the members of our community out that was in need. There’s truly something to be said for that, and for the fact that if it wasn’t for this new technology that Sam might not have been able to escape the environment she was in.