I'm a very regular reader of the Brooklyn real-estate blog, brownstoner.com. Its older self-description was 'an obsessive interest in brownstone Brooklyn,' though now its slogan is 'Brooklyn inside and out,' as befits its broader perspective. It's a prolific site, with all kinds of news about real-estate and current events broadly connected to the state of life and the built environment in Brooklyn (and New York). The Forum section deals with advice about everything from the minutiae of sealing marble counters, to how sleazy real-estate brokers are, to how to deal with the odd stoop-pooper.
One of the regular posters decided it would be a good thing to organize a get-together of 'brownstoners' in the flesh; the first one was back last October and the second was yesterday, both in bars with boccie courts, oddly enough, though none of the attendees actually played it...too much of interest otherwise.
I approached the first one with considerable curiosity. Being a regular ranter on the blog myself, and having been called many names due to my over-solicitousness to tenants' predicament and my over-willingness to suggest raising taxes on everyone making more money than me (that's my detractors speaking,) I wondered how it would be to meet in person the anonymous people I had been having many conversations with. Not the least of the curiosity was the unmasking of the body behind the login name, so to speak...since the names may not reflect the persons behind them at all, though over the months the sex (I was trained to use 'sex', not 'gender' as I keep telling my son, who's at the age that any use of that three-letter word is hilarious) of many had been revealed through their writings.
It was a very pleasant surprise. Rabid ranters seemed normal in person and I actually wondered whether it would be harder to make fun of/ridicule/dismiss as idiotic the writings of those whom I'd met (actually, the answer is yes and no, but that's another story.)
Last night was the second meeting. Though I'd forgotten many (the name tags were usually the on-line names, not the real ones,) it was like meeting slightly eccentric family members at the next major holiday.
The blog/response scenario is of course such a recent phenomenon that practically anything could have been anticipated. The anonymity granted by posting on blogs under a pseudonym is quite cherished and unique...almost like writing anonymous letters in another era. But that action was considered anti-social and usually confined to the 'poison-pen' world. Nowadays the anonymity, while still used as a cloak for all kinds of excess, is self-protective as well...who wants the many internet trolls to identify you (I wondered if protectiveness was operative in the ratio of men to women in the group yesterday, which was high, or whether there are many more men posting on brownstoner than women)?
Which is why this second meeting, with its glimmerings of an actual community developing, is so interesting. If you didn't know it, you might have thought that this was a group who worked together having an after-work social session. Lots of conversation and drinking. This may become a regularly scheduled event, and maybe real-life friendships will develop. But then would you have to control your posting language? I wondered perhaps if that was why many regulars were not present.