I remember my first interaction with the Internet. My sister and I fought for time on the computer, something I am sure my parents dreaded. Not only did they have to install another land line because they had two teenage girls in the house constantly talking on the phone, we now were constantly on the Internet. We were so excited to hear the dial-up sounds which ultimately lead to those three glorious words- “You’ve got mail!”. Back in the America Online (AOL) days, we used the Internet primarily to instant message with our friends. What I was most excited about was joining chat rooms based on areas of common interest, and chat with people from all over the world who were interested in the same things that I was interested in. I would have never had the opportunity to talk to a girl from Poland who listened to Missy Elliot’s music as much as I did. I did not know it then, but that chat room was a pseudo-network. Everyone there wanted to meet other Missy Elliot fans and talk about how great she was (and still is!).
Today, one can find a network on almost anything. The Internet was built on the fundamental principle of commonality and connectivity- essentially, for community. One is able to find hundreds of millions of communities on the Internet. Within those communities, even more networks are formed. These communities and networks are based on similar interests or concerns. Looking back on my AOL days, I wasn’t a big participant in the Missy Elliot network, or many networks, for that matter. I sat back and read people’s conversations, commenting to my sister on what was going on. I did this was because I was too shy to say anything to the other members in the network. I was so worried that I would come across like I did not know what I was talking about.
As an adult, I have found that I am a member of very few professional communities on the Internet. I follow a few blogs written by other educators in my teaching field, in my RSS feed, but it stops there. Even now, I do not contribute as much as I should- because of the same fear I had while using AOL. As Jeff said in Reach, I am a lurker. I take information, but I never share it. I am not communicating with like minded people, and sharing with them how great I think their ideas are. One reason why I decided to join COETAIL was to step outside of my comfort zone, and develop more connections through online networking. My husband is so great at networking through various social media mediums. I see the value in that, but I have never taken the leap to develop my own PLN. I know that this takes communication and visibility between myself and all others in the community and those I am trying to network with.
There is so much information on the Internet, that thinking about it is almost overwhelming. Google is both a noun and a verb, or at least that how I use the word. I can use Google to find ways that writers can hook readers but I can also “google it” when I want to know where to eat in Taipei. The Internet is a combination of mass content AND mass connections. Connections are formed based on the content and content is there because of the connections. I’m a pro at finding content on the Internet. I can research the heck out of something- if there’s a will, there’s content to be found! From the content, I’ve seen connections between others. I even tried a few times to make those connections myself. I created usernames and posted a few times to various communities I stumbled on to. I quickly found that it became too much, I couldn’t keep up with the online community and as well as the other “real world” communities I am part of.