The bright side of virtual communities

Wolseley resident gets onstage for TEDx


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/04/2017 (2123 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

These days, it’s not often that the online world is seen in a positive light, but Alyson Shane hopes to flip that idea on its head.

The Wolseley resident is getting ready to give her first TEDx presentation, which will take place in Winnipeg on June 6. Shane says she’s always liked the idea of speaking, but nerves always held her back — until now.

“The working title of my talk is ‘The power of finding your tribe,’ and it’s about the positive impact of digital communities,” Shane said. “I figure with the climate the way it is, and people tend to think of social media and being online is a really negative experience, so one of my goals with the talk is to reassess how people view being online.”

Supplied photo TEDx Winnipeg’s 2016 presenters and crew. This year’s event takes place on June 6.

Shane said her own positive experiences led her to the realization that there is a lot of support and community to be found online, especially, or particularly if, there’s no one in your physical life who is going through the same thing.

“There are Facebook groups that are related to people with cancer or family members that have lost family,” Shane said. “On Reddit, there are subreddits for alcoholism, relationships, substance abuse. These communities exist for the sole purpose of providing support and information.”

She says it’s a powerful way to realize that regardless of what you’re going through, someone out there has probably been there. It can be a vital part of getting through life’s challenges or developing a talent or passion.

“I in no way mean to imply that a digital reality should eclipse or be a replacement for face-to-face interaction or a replacement for real life,” she said. “But it can be hard to talk to people about the things you’re going through. You may be struggling with imposter syndrome and you may not want to share your work.

“You may seek out a place where people are really strangers, but become friends over time because you collaborate and give constructive criticism. Doing it through a screen allows you to be more anonymous but more yourself, because you don’t have to worry about someone’s reaction.”

She refers to Reddit’s relationships forum, which is a busy spot for relationship issues — and advice — of all kinds. When it comes to something as personal as a marriage that is falling apart or an abusive parent, the objective words of strangers who have no ulterior motive can provide the benefit of outside perspective.

Shane says she’s nervous to go up, but she’s in good company.

“It’s a huge undertaking, but I’m feeling confident in my ability to deliver it,” she said. “The TED team are super supportive.”

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