The Internet has only been available since 1990, the year my youngest son was born.
I remember being shown that I was on it in 1996 (via my job) and feeling astonished. But I soon embraced email and gradually began to learn how to “surf”. (One day I will learn how to actually surf IRL, or as my other son tells me, “AFK”).
So you will appreciate my surprise when I first heard my young sons, in about 1997, talking to what sounded like grown men people with strong German and American accents, who were (luckily) not even in their room. Their gaming consoles enabled not just a virtual game; it connected them to people all over the globe, who they were speaking to and playing with!
My own non-work breakthrough came through joining an international home exchange website, Homeforexchange.com, around this time, which enabled us to travel to Australia, New Zealand, India, Denmark, Paris, Amsterdam, Rio, Buenos Aires, New York, Florida, Seville, Bath, the Cotswolds (and that experience led to us buying a home in the area), and many other places. Leaving our own central London flat in the hands of our swappers, we universally met warm hospitality, often being invited into the homes, parties and outings of the neighbours. Our families and their families got involved. People referred others. The joy of spending time in someone else’s community, sharing local’s tips, walking around a city with the key to your home in your pocket. For Nick and I it was a life enhancing experience.
If our kids were early adopters or digital natives, my elderly parents had an interesting reaction.
You need to appreciate their different approaches to technology first. My father was rather scientific, enjoyed machines and how things were made, and he loved gadgets and novelty. My mother, on the other hand has no interest in technology and enjoys her less rational take on matters (especially politics). One day father brought home a microwave oven and proceeded to demonstrate the marvellous technology that turned a mug of water into a mug of hot water. We all watched, delighted, my mother saying she would never use it. She didn’t want fast and convenient, she had little use for heating up food and she enjoyed cooking. My father never really progressed beyond the mug of hot water, although to be honest he found out how to make lemon cheese (aka lemon curd) in the microwave which was really rather good.
So when my father got a computer and started to really enjoy it, my mother would get a bit miffed. One day he was showing me how he was able to listen to Tina Turner via the internet, my mother dropped a pan with a huge clatter. My father explained that whenever Mum felt he had spent too much time on-line she would break a plate or drop something so that he would need to move away from his keyboard and investigate!
I used Google a great deal at home and at work in order to find things out, or get information on opening times. I may have done a little shopping, but not much. And then, in about 2013, I got into blogging.
Firstly in search of information about dressmaking I Googled. And, somewhat to my surprise, I found much of what I wanted to know through non-commercial sites, set up by enthusiasts like myself. There were sites specifically for a community – like Artisans’ Square and Mumsnet. But there were also millions of individual bloggers who freely shared what they had learned. But there was much more to it. I just loved to read people’s stories about how they made clothes, their inspiration, their struggles (the what-went-wrong stories are always the best), their context – the wedding, making for men, the up-cycling before and after pictures, the stories so rich in interest and emotion. Then in a daring move I started to leave little comments, especially when the writers asked a question. But I rarely got a response which made it feel like a one-sided conversation.
Then, in 2015, I conceived the idea of setting up my own blog so I could write about what interested me “fit and fashion, style and stitching”). And it has sustained me ever since. I love writing and making things and being connected. To me sewing and related blogs have created a space where people with similar interests can congregate, learn from each other, entertain each other, bond with each other. Later on I also embraced Instagram which is ideal for those with less time. Both blogging and IG are positive friendly spaces where the community lifts each other up. It is life affirming. (I have disengaged with Twitter as it is full of negative people who like to do others down).
But the biggest breakthrough was when I started meeting the women behind the blogs, or my “followers” (I find that a patronising term. They are more like friends and supporters). Just like the home swapping we connected through the internet, got to know each other, and found we had so much in common. One of the most beautiful parts of my life today is not just enjoying little chats with other bloggers and instagrammers. It is spending time with each and every one of them. Friends from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Scotland, the North, the Midlands, Northern Ireland, and lots who are local, have all made a special effort to meet me, and it has been one of the nicest things ever. The older generation are so skilled and able and have taught me so much. The younger ones share their digital skills, design excitement and shopping tips. I have made so many really wonderful new friends in this way and encourage anyone to give it a go. This generous, gregarious, gorgeous community is ready to embrace you. Join in!