Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

Internet = People = ❤️

I love Internet. And I have ever since I gained access to it in my pre-teens at the turn of the millennium. There has been so many different steps in my path through the Internet forest but almost all of them are about people.

The Early Days: In Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Dog

These days with Facebooks and the boom of the video, we have an Internet where many people represent themselves with their real name and/or face. But back in the day, it was forums and IRC where you really didn’t know who people were unless you got to know them.

And I loved it. As a socially awkward kiddo from a small town in a small country, it was a bliss. I was able to be whatever I wanted: I was evaluated based on my thoughts and my writing. Nobody knew if you’re a guy or a girl (or a dog), short or tall, socially awkward or charismatic, or 12 or 30 years old.

Even though you should never meet strangers you’ve encountered online, I did exactly the opposite. I traveled across the country to meet people I had only interacted with online — some of them I had never talked with over the phone or even seen a picture.

Some people I knew as a nickname-only basis for years before we actually met in the real life. Meeting those people and continuing the discussion like two old friends was such an interesting experience when at the same time you realize it’s the first time you’re meeting.

The Modern Days: Real People with Real Faces

Then the world changed. The transformation from anonymity and nicknames changed to real names and text-only chats were enhanced with pictures and videos and more real-life connection.

For me, it was a rough and difficult change. Suddenly, it wasn’t anymore just my thoughts but the scene started to change. Video and podcasts started to get more attention and a lot of community started to form around those. I felt bad. I felt that my time had gone. But it hadn’t, it was just starting out.

Buffer Community Coffee :: https://twitter.com/ariellemargot/status/1062751383319760896

I’ve been involved in a lot of online communities. Dozens and dozens of them. I have made friends who I’ve been friends with for almost two decades. Today I was in a video call with bunch of amazing people from all around the world: the US, the UK, Cayman Islands, India, Finland, Romania. And that’s the beauty of the Internet.

While Internet is no longer anonymous, it still connects people across the planet in a way nothing else does. And it enables friends to move around the world and still be in day-to-day face-to-face touch. Or you can make new friends from across the planet, talk with them and maybe one day we can meet in person.

For me, these communities provide so much emotional support, laughter, people to talk about movies and video games and communities and programming and everything in the world with. Through them, I’ve gained so much confidence and practice that these days jumping on a group video call with bunch of strangers is not something I stress over for days — it’s rather something I look forward to every day.