Why I love the internet:
I've talked in this blog before about niche communities. It wasn't too many years ago a teenager had to wait until college, or until old enough to move cities/states, before they could fall into a crowd of truly like-minded persons. Whether the interest be a particular genre of music, lifestyle choice, or faith community, sometimes it was difficult to feel that anyone else in the world was in the same ballpark.
I remember being young and thinking to myself, "Why is no one my age genuine about their faith? Am I the only Christian my age in the world??" That may seem like a truly absurd thought (certainly my intellectual mind knew it wasn't true) but that doesn't diminish the very real relief I felt when I found a group like the Navigators in college.
I see a secular sense of belonging in something like http://nerdfighters.ning.com/?page_id=63 , which essentially spawned from two nerdy brothers video blogging each other and has now become a popular social network for the nerdier kids of the nation. If you like Harry Potter, if you were a marching band dork, if you love sci-fi and writing songs about video games... nerdfighters is probably a group you want to be aware of.
But more than niche communities, the internet is a place where anyone/everyone can make their concepts/inventions a reality. I just recently discovered a site called http://omegle.com/ that was made by an 18 year old. The site is basically a completely anonymous version of aim -- when you log on you're connected to one other anonymous person who you can then have a conversation with. I've only used the site once (I asked the guy it connected me to about his experiences on the site, what most conversations ended up being about, etc.). Fascinating concept and all from a kid who hadn't even graduated high school yet.
Here's another great concept: http://www.yourworldoftext.com/home/ Basically it's an open screen that anyone can type into (anonymously) in real time. So you can edit what other people have typed, add your own thoughts. It's like a big open whiteboard for anyone to use. Now be careful, if you're clicking on the links then know that the main board of this site can get pretty inappropriate. The genius of the site, though, is that adding backslash and something to the url brings you to a new open whiteboard... so if you were to go to http://www.yourworldoftext.com/christianity you would find some thoughts (anonymous, mind you) from anyone else who typed onto that page. You and your friends could make your own page, etc. Again, great concept made by one individual.
Most of my friends have heard me go on and on about the brilliance of http://blip.fm/ (which is like twitter but every post is a song or video that is pulled from the internet) ... it's a tremendous site for music lovers out there. Helps build a community, share favorite bands, etc. But that isn't the only site for legal and innovative ways of sharing music mix tapes, here's an article from wired about some others: http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/10/best-8-ways-to-share-mix-tapes/
If you're reading this post and thinking to yourself, "Meh, these are gimicky and a waste of time, bringing focus off of what life should be about," then let me gently challenge you with one thought... kids nowadays are born into a facebook world. The way they understand reality and relate to truth is deeply couched in the technologies of the internet. Of course that mental and social shift has both pros and cons but the exciting news is that social networking breathes new life into those meaningful and necessary conversations.
Don't lose yourself in the shuffle -- your beliefs, interests, purpose in life -- but also don't be afraid to use new platforms for self-expression. If you have a story to share, if you are in possession of good news for the world... then let it go wherever you go :-) It's a big crazy world out there and while in some regards there is nothing new under the sun, be excited that age-old truths are reinvented and rediscovered every generation. As I heard recently, "God doesn't have any grandchildren," meaning the faith of your parents is their faith, your faith must be your own.
Okay, I've reached the point of rambling so I'll hit the post button. Happy posting, bloggers.