I first started networking with people at the age of 8 — there was no internet. Instead, I would use the pen pal ads at the back of my Babysitter’s Club books to link me to other girls reading the series. I loved writing letters. I would write long, long letters to my new pen pals and would squeal with enjoyment when I received a letter.
At the age of 14, I found CompuServe — as soon as I found the service, there was no turning back. The very minute I heard the ring tone on the computer and the screeching, I fell in love. There were so many people I could meet at the tips of my fingertips. Amazing! I would spend hours with my little brother roaming the net. I found chat rooms and email pen-pal sites. I was in heaven! I could have pen-pals from around the world and I wouldn’t have to wait for the slow post office!
At 15, I found AOL and found my calling — writing web content and interacting with people via internet channels. At first, it was writing profiles on AOL (that I wrote, edited, re-wrote, deleted, and wrote again) and entering newbie chat-rooms to discuss the new things around the net, but I wanted more. I joined AOL forums on writing and editing and, soon, I started joining MUDs. I met a lot of interesting people in the MUDs and enjoyed speaking with them and learning about their lives.
Because a lot of MUD-ers were tech people, they did a lot of coding. I got lucky. I became friends with the heads of the site and coerced them into helping me “level up” so I could become a “god” (Mud Admin). However, when I became an admin of a MUD they gave me the coding files and said have at it — I downed the MUD at least 3 times. Finally, the other “gods” told me that I should stick to community management and writing content. So, I would create worlds and characters and they would put it in for me. I also had the task of watching the MUD community to ensure everyone was happy — it was my first taste of community management and I was addicted.
Eventually, I tried to create my own website. I think the first website I created was on Angelfire. The next was on Geocities. The MUD community was pretty supportive and they helped me create code. I was never a very good web developer — I preferred to write content and ask others to help me with the code, but I loved writing information. I loved the interaction — it was a great feeling.
When I went to college, and was no longer living with my parents, I started trying out friend finding sites and (dare I say it) dating sites — at that time, internet dating (and making friends off the internet) was taboo. However, to me, it was the best way to make friends and to meet interesting people.
I’ve met many, many people since then and have made connections and friends from all over the world. Thus, I’m a great believer in social networking and internet communities.
For me, the internet communities are not just groups of people — they are a place of learning, passion, and untapped friendships.