While it is possible to only interact with people you know on social media, the reality is that there are a lot of strangers on the internet. There are bad strangers (like stalkers and chatroom bad guys) but every once in a while, you hear about some great things happening on the internet (or thanks to the internet) that kind of feel like magic.
What got me thinking about this was The Bloggess, who recently posted about her struggles with depression and self-harm. It was a super brave thing to do, and she acknowledged being scared, but she got such a huge outpouring of support that it sparked a silver ribbon movement and re-launched the traveling red dress (in which she sends a red dress to someone who needs a little fabulousness in their life, and they pass it on) phenomenon. That all happened basically by accident–one brave thing/blog post turned into strangers organizing and doing nice things for each other.
I participated in the mixtape exchange (ooh, it’s happening again this year–deadline is tonight, so sign up if you’re into that!) last year, which was one little blogger’s brilliant brainchild: she has everyone send her their mailing address and she matches you up with a stranger for you to send a mix cd of your favorite tracks of the year to. I never got a cd from anyone (boo), but it was so fun making one for a girl in Chicago and later tweeting about it to the blogger and even the recipient of my cd!
On a more commercial level, Meg from A Practical Wedding turned blog followers into book consumers with a brilliant publicity campaign. She knew she had a ton of loyal readers and fans, but it’s often a challenge to get people who enjoy free, regularly updated content to buy the print, static version. Meg sent contributors advance copies and had them blog about the book, she blogged about writing the book, she organized a book buy on December 7 to make the book shoot up on the Amazon charts, she asked people to leave good reviews on the Amazon listing, and she launched a book tour after commenters promised they’d come see her. As someone who used to be a book publicist, this girl is a dream author. Talk about someone who makes your life easier.
Anyway, the point is that while the internet can be a big, anonymous place where jerks feel free to be comment trolls, it can also be a place full of awesomeness and a way to spread joy. I kind of love that.