International Friends and National Trees

There are so many ‘official’ days or ‘recognised celebrations’; it is hard to keep up with them. Pizza Day. Tiger Day. Red Shoe Day. This social responsibility with my geek calendar is exhausting.  Believe me, I try.

And then one day, when the planets are aligned and you stick your tongue out to the side at the correct angle… BAM! You score a two-for-one you can work with.

tree hug

Sunday 30 July is International Day of Friendship, as recognised by the United Nations. It’s a day to promote solidarity of the human spirit.

Buddy. Bro. Mate.

That network of people who listen when you rave about the last Doctor Who episode, whinge about the Australian Senator with the tin-foil hat, and cry about the state of the Great Barrier Reef.

Sometimes they are fellow-parents you catch up with for a coffee every month or so. Sometimes they are the lovely ladies you meet with to talk about comic books and superhero movies and chocolate brownie recipes. Sometimes they are a roughly-thrown-together bunch of scruffy looking nerf-herders who are trying to convince you to travel all the way over to the United States of America to join their cosplay. BTW: I’m totally in.

And this is where I love the internet. I’ve said it before: the internet is awesome for friendship. Not just for me, but for the spawnlings too. Take Zaltu, for example. She has this amazing friendship with the daughter of a minion over in the States. Let’s call our spawnlings Z1 and Z2.

International Day of Friendship

 

These girls chat about everything over Facebook Chat. They show each other their Super Hero Girls, they give tours of their bedrooms, they talk about dance moves. When my phone starts having a long series of buzzing fits, I know Z2 is sending Z1 a bunch of stickers and GIFs through Facebook Chat. And I know my bundle of joy is returning the favour to her friend… usually at 2am in the US morning, thanks to time zones (we have finally figured out how to use this to our advantage – teaching the girls about day/night and summer/winter… see, we’re educational and stuff).

Zaltu has friends at preschool and in the neighbourhood, but not all of them have the same interests. And not all of them want to talk about Wonder Woman for the umpteenth time. Yeah, I don’t understand that either. But this is where the technology works so well because I can show her a real person, just like her, who DOES want to talk Wonder Woman. It’s a bit like those pen pals ever so popular during my childhood. Except Zaltu can SEE her friend and talk with her in real time. For Zaltu, that’s what makes a true friend: support, connecting, and availability. It really doesn’t change much as we grow up older.

Now, before you get all excited about celebrating your friendships all over the internet I have a bonus for the Australian readers.

Sunday 30 July is also National Tree Day. Which means you can look twice as savvy by combining the two! Take your friend out for a picnic under a tree. Or plant a tree in honour of a special friend. If your special friend is far away, go and hug a tree instead.

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Don’t be overwhelmed with the social calendar of the internet. Choose your days wisely. Look for overlaps to instantly double your cool geek status. But most importantly, stick with the ones that mean something to you as well. There’s no point in celebrating a day if you aren’t doing the celebrating part.

This one is easy. Friends + Trees. Zaltu is already heading over to the tree with my phone for some Facebook Chat… wait, that’s MY phone… DAMN IT!!

The Interwebs: Where All The Evil Kids Hang Out

I have just finished a really long, heated, and frustrating telephone call with my father – EG Opa. The short version is that the Internet is an evil place, where evil things happen, and only evil people benefit from it.

</old baby-boomers rant>

Yeah, I was going to palm it off as “grumpy old man say whaaat?” … But I’m one of those people who benefits from the Internet.GotG-Idiots

So naturally I felt the need to defend it, and all the other people who benefit from it without the intent of evil status (if you’re reading this, then accept that you are at least subconsciously working towards ‘evil genius’ status).

Now let’s make one thing, one very particular thing, clear before we go any further with my rant. I currently do not receive any financial benefits from my blog. Just old school wanting to write stuff.

So the first thing I asked my dear old dad is “What’s the evil benefit that I’m gaining?”

Yes, he stumbled. He ranted about evil people trying to steal information and lead people astray; corrupting young minds; and stalking my spawnlings.

No mention about my blog. Because clearly I am not on the internet.

So then we started talking about Facebook and Twitter and other social media forums. Predictably, he was back to “they’re evil, no-one is honest about who they are, they are all out to defraud you, no-one is really your friend” etc.

I am not naïve enough to think that everyone is honestly my bestie and thinks I am funny everyday (though, that day will come). However, I have received great positive benefits from online relationships – friendships that enhance the person I am in real life.

Way back in the 90’s, we had mIRC through the university servers. My first uni was a regional campus that used mIRC to connect students across hundreds of kilometres. It WAS supposed to encourage study groups, in the same manner as long-distance education. All faculties were included.

mIRC

Let’s be honest – only IT geeks used it. Mostly guys. There were a few females. And it was SOOOOO much fun. I met one of my closest friends through mIRC.

When I changed universities and moved to the city, I knew where my people were: Computer Labs and mIRC. Once again, I found a group of people who were as geeky as me and made me feel welcomed in a new habitat. We started meeting up at the pub for beer o’clock and pool (billiards) – and yes, one of them was even a genuine study buddy (the only other law student in a group dominated by IT and engineering)! Still friends with some today.

Over the years, the ‘forums’ have changed, but the friendships have not. Despite the stereotype EG Opa was giving, I was not some awkward teen unable to make any friends in the real world. I was merely a multi-layered individual who enjoyed associating with a diverse group of people.

Just like you.

I still maintain a presence in chatrooms and message boards; I frequently participate in Facebook and Twitter discussions (not much else due to time constraints); I have met many of my online friends in the real world (Hi Bruce and Tracey, and tribe! Hey Clinton and Kimberley, are you going to Supanova?).

I even write with an amazing group of people I have never met in person, yet respect and admire for their own Evil Genius. They have taught me so much and guided me through a fairly steep learning curve over the last 6 months. All from their computers.

Most of all I have been able to connect with people around the world, people who I would never EVER have met otherwise and yet give me the support to explore so many awesome things: geeky interests; International Humanitarian Law; Cosplay for kids; Gifted Children. Believe me when I say there are VERY FEW people in my geographic location that I can talk to about all of these topics, and yet there they are – on my computer.

NONE of this has been corrupt. None of it has been creepy. None of it has ever been as evil as the grumpy old man would want you to believe.

I know this is all a rant (how ironic), but the main reason for this rant is to show you, my loyal minions, that you are not alone. Unfortunately there are still people who do not understand the social benefits of the internet – but I do. I DO!

The Internet is NOT an evil place where only evil benefits. It is merely a tool, like anything else. And while there is a small minority of ick, there is a greater overwhelming feeling of YEAH!

Don’t let the grumpy old man ruin that for you.

Go say hi to your online friends.

And tell them thanks from EG Mum.

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