I love the internet. Really. It has revolutionised much of what we do each day in ways that so few technologies have. Its impact hasn't been all rainbows and sunshine but I think that in the long run it will be seen to have had a net positive impact on humanity.
One thing it has done incredibly well is facilitate the development of thriving communities around niche interests. Of course such things existed in the past, but before the web people who had unusual or specific interests may have struggled to interact regularly with those who shared similar passions. Now you can almost always find a place online where people are sharing their thoughts, feelings and creations with people across the world. It's enabled what you might call a niche-ification of interests as people form communities around what seem to be pretty obscure things without having to indulge those less passionate or with broader interests. Today, seriously nerdy people can find other seriously nerdy people to argue and share with very easily.
I've certainly been drawn to communities such as these at different times in my life. When you find yourself feeling particularly passionate about something, it is extremely rewarding to find a corner of the world where this passion can manifest itself in discussion and debate. In fact, it can be even greater than that. I've found that taking part in communities in this way often enhances the experience of something rather than simply augmenting it. It's awesome to learn from others who are better versed in different topics or have alternate viewpoints on similar material. At different times, I've been involved to varying degrees in communities relating to music, technology, politics, sports and television. All sorts of things, really. These communities can sometimes be as tremendous as they can be tremendously vicious, but in almost all cases I've found value in them.
You might have read that list of things and thought to yourself that none of them are of remotely any interest to you. Frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if you felt that way. I feel like I have a pretty diverse set of interests. But buried in that idea is something important. *Think of how many of these communities exist, online or otherwise. * There are an inconceivable number of these groups discussing things that you may have never even encountered, let alone given much thought. I think that that's pretty profound.
I've written about this before, but I'm really conscious of the passion that 'car people' have about there vehicles. I like what cars enable me to do in my life, and I can appreciate the beauty of a vintage car or crazy sports car if I see one, but personally I can say that cars really don't occupy my thoughts much of the day.
One thing to realise is that I certainly don't think any person's passion for car is therefore invalid or misplaced. In fact, unless you're causing some sort of harm to other people, I really don't much care what it is that makes other people happy. I like it when people are happy about things, because if there is one thing that I'm conscious of each day, it is the amount of anger and unhappiness that exists in a lot of people, often over pretty trivial things. So any time someone is happily disappearing into their own world, power to them.
Sharing a space with my housemate over the past few months has probably been the key catalyst for this realisation. Being exposed to the interests of my family for so long, I think I became numb to those things because they have simply been there for so long. As much as my housemate and I have in common, simply being exposed to his other interests has been enlightening for me. Some of his passions include skiing, scuba diving and surfing. I dabbled in a few of these things in high school here and there, and enjoyed them more than I expected, but none of them spoke to me like they did to him. Since we began sharing the flat, it's been cool to see videos, watch competitions and discuss dives and trips, things I'd never really taken much notice of before.
Right now, there are passionate people talking online and in person about things like engines, skiing, trombones, synchronised diving, staff fighting and horse riding. There are people arguing about the stock market, real estate, wars, and politics. There are people knitting, sewing, stitching and cutting material. There are people talking about what mobile phone is the best or what computer is the best or what movie is the best or what TV show is the best. There are people making software and making boats. There are people going fishing for bait for the next time they go fishing to catch different kinds of fish. Frankly, this list in pointless, because there are more things going on out there than I can even begin to imagine when putting something like this together. The passion of people is infinite. It is incredible to me to think there are so many things that different people care so much about which I might never even think about for one second of my life. I don't feel the compulsion to chase all these things, because I think that's impossible. I am glad to be conscious of the depth and the breadth of human passion, though.