My Table In the Town Square: Why I’m OK with being a blogger now

The internet is, quite simply, the new town square. Nothing more and nothing less, and in that square, there are utter idiots yelling at the tops of their lungs about crap, but there are small tables surrounded by people having true, powerful discourse. There are people handing out pamphlets. People on soap boxes. And then there are people strolling through, feeling a bit more alive, a bit more connected just by observing.

BlissChick has unwittingly become my muse of late. The above is her comment on yesterday’s post about self promotion, the strange necessity that we creative types have to come to grips with if we want to be heard about the chattering crowd.

Photo by Nathan Berry
Prague Square by Nathan Berry

She paints such a brilliant picture – I can see myself in this square. I want to be one of those people sitting at one of those tables, engaged in the sorts of conversations that change lives. The talk would be so brilliant that my companions and I can tune out the blowhards and the fear mongers and the endless trails of paparazzi fueled gossip.

At the same time, I remember thinking that this is a great metaphor, but I’ve never been a part of a town square like that, at least not in this country. In Europe I think I have been one of those passersby, enlivened by watching the locals acting out their lives in one of those bustling public spaces. Here in the States, however, those town squares, if they exist at all, may fill up for the Fourth of July parade, but otherwise remain a little forlorn, no longer the heart of the community.

It seems like the Internet came in to fill a serious void that we may all have been experiencing for quite a while. How long has it been since we lived in lively villages where expression and relationship ruled the day?dsc008212 Part of me wonders if those places every really existed, until I recall our friends’ more than idyllic village, Dornburg in eastern Germany. There, it might have become a wee bit claustrophobic, but it was incredible to walk the narrow lanes and know that everyone knew everyone else’s name.

Somehow I think I had myself convinced that blogging and all this virtual communication was somehow suspect, that this new means of communication had somehow stamped out a more vivid personal set of interactions. I worried that it was a pale facsimile of something better and more pure that once existed before. In fact, the ways that people communicate has always been in flux and rather than being the destructive force, the Internet gives us new ways to talk to each other that never would have been possible in the confines of a tiny town square. (I never read this book, but the title comes to mind when I start dipping into the topic of isolation and disconnection in American society.)

I know that none of these are new revelations, but one of the main functions of this this blog is help me really understand what might have seemed so obvious but which needed closer examination so that I could truly know. After months of writing in this space it is probably strange that I am only coming to peace with this practice now, but I suppose everything has to blossom and take root in its own time.

What can we do to make the conversations that we have on these far-flung flickering screens come to life in our offline worlds? How can we breath life into all of the community spaces we inhabit?

8 thoughts on “My Table In the Town Square: Why I’m OK with being a blogger now

  1. blisschick December 2, 2008 / 10:46 pm

    YAY! I’m glad that helped. You know who aided me in that revelation — Neil Gaiman. On his blog one time, he very offhandedly said something about this “community that is not in any way virtual,” and it got me to thinking down a different path, veering off from what I thought I knew, from what I had assumed.

  2. Tess December 3, 2008 / 9:16 am

    Yes, that Blisschick, she has muse-like qualities!! I love the internet as town square analogy.
    I enjoyed both this post of yours and yesterday’s, and they reflect to a great extent where I find myself.
    I started blogging slightly on a whim and have stayed for the real community I’ve found. I, too, want to grow my readership so that I can engage in more conversations and I, too, have felt a little ‘off’ about self-promotion.
    But the whole online thing has become so valuable to me, both the reading and the writing.
    That’s why I’ve just joined both Twitter and Facebook in the last couple of weeks, and find I’m enjoying them for their own sakes.
    Also, many of my “real life” friends are Luddites who glaze over when I mention the word ‘internet’ for anything other than shopping, making this online community doubly precious.
    So see you at one of the small tables – mine’s a cappucino!

  3. Quiet December 3, 2008 / 3:59 pm

    The Internet has always held this potential. I know of a group of people with intellectual disabilities who have created their own community through the Internet. It is quite impressive.

    For some years I belonged to a tarot forum which has provided an international community to tarot enthusiasts and learners. After some times people began to meet each other in real life too.

    There are downsides as well, of course. The Internetforums can give a distorted view of personalities and somehow ‘gangstas’ get hold of your email address and start scamming!

    Blogging offers real riches, however. There are a number of blogs which I really enjoy reading. You hear things and ‘meet’ peoplethat you just might not, otherwise.

  4. Quiet December 3, 2008 / 4:01 pm

    Pardon the ‘typos’ in the above!

  5. pam at beyondjustmom December 3, 2008 / 9:42 pm

    I’m new to this blogging thing, but I love your town square analogy. I too seek a community where people can “engage in the sorts of conversations that change lives.” Thanks so much for providing a beautiful image to make it tangible. When I saw your picture, it immediately looked familiar, and then I realized I have been to that very square in Prague!

  6. girlwhocriedepiphany December 4, 2008 / 12:24 am

    Dear BlissChick: Hey muse, I think something’s working… And I know who to thank!

    Dear Tess: It has been really odd to mention to the “real world” folk that I am doing this. This blog has been part of a whole identity shift for me – moving from being the sarcastic red head who says the first thing that comes to mind and always goes for the punchline to the redhead who tries to weigh her words and let her spiritual/healer side lead the way. What a challenge to describe this to those who knew me in wilder days!

    Dear Quiet: The great masquerade ball that is the Internet definitely gives us many things to be wary of. A community of kind, committed readers like yourself makes the darker bits seem so far off, however!

    Dear Pam: Welcome! I give BlissChick the credit for the town square – I just ran with the image!

  7. Jennifer/The Word Cellar December 4, 2008 / 11:35 pm

    Such good questions in this post. Lately I’ve been pondering the changing nature of my friendscape. Although I have several friends I regularly see in person, so much of my social circle has shifted to far-flung friends that I’ve met via blogging. I’ve been wondering about ways to deepen those relationships beyond the giddy recognition of: “Hey! I like the way you think/write/create! Maybe you’re part of my tribe!” I don’t have the answers for those questions yet. But a European town square image is a fantastic description of blogland. (And I’m always up for sitting at a cafe table with hot beverages and good conversation!)

  8. girlwhocriedepiphany December 5, 2008 / 7:19 am

    Dear Jennifer,
    Thanks for stopping by!
    It’s funny, I am just settling into the area we live in (we finally bought a house so I’m making a conscious commitment to the place rather than feeling like I have one foot out the door) and at the same time I am finding myself more at home in an online world as well. I can understand what you are saying about forming lots of almost-relationships, though. Everyone is so starved for time these days, it seems like we barely ever give ourselves the chance to sip that hot beverage with friends whether they are across the table or across the world.

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