Got this nice note from Jamie at the University of Vermont today…
I absolutely LOVE what you’re doing. I think that Front Porch Forum is one of the best things to happen as a result of the internet. Everyone actually reads the emails and it’s a great way to connect with folks that you otherwise would have little interaction with.
Wow! Very nice. I know that all college students are supposedly on Facebook and YouTube 24/7, but I keep meeting local young-uns who aren’t that enthralled with the idea of living their lives through their laptops and cell phones.
After witnessing boatloads of goodwill among neighbors through Front Porch Forum, I thought I had seen it all. Well… can you guess the response to this posting?
Hello – I am a UVM student about to spend my first summer in Burlington. All year long I’ve been dreaming of joining a CSA for the first time. I’ve done my research, found a farm, and am totally pumped for fresh local veggies. But, of course, there’s one problem: money. Like any typical college student, I have some financial woes, namely that I have very little cash at the moment. I have a job lined up for the summer with the Vermont Landscape Change Program (check it out at http://www.uvm.edu/landscape) which is funded by the National Science Foundation, and is therefore well-paid. I can afford a CSA, just not until I start getting paid in early June, which, unfortunately, goes against the very idea behind CSA (ie cash up front).
Since everyone on this forum seems to care about community programs, local business, and general camaraderie, I thought it wouldn’t kill me to at least ask if there is anyone out there willing to give me a loan for 200 dollars. I realize this sounds a little sketchy… I am more than happy to talk for hours, meet up, provide references, and even draw up a contract. I’d also be thrilled to bake you pies all summer long! I realize you can’t get a good sense of me via e-mail, but if there’s any chance that you might be able to help me out, I would be so, so thankful. I promise that my intentions are totally honest and that you will get your money back. thanks!
Now, less than 12 hours later, I just stumbled across her blog posting…
Yesterday I asked my neighbors for a loan to get a CSA share at a local farm. By 10 am today, I had six (SIX!) offers from strangers, happy to loan a college student a couple hundred bucks. I couldn’t be a less safe bet (I mean, come on, I’m a college student who spent two weeks scrounging for food!), and yet so many people were willing to give me a shot. Wow.
So here’s my conclusion: there are, actually, more good people than bad people out there, but the problem is that they don’t ever really show their ‘goodness.’ If everyone were just a little less shy, then we could all do a better job helping each other out. That said, everybody should join the Front Porch Forum (frontporchforum.com)
“Facebook is just a game. That’s it, that’s all.” So says Sebastien Provencher. Thank goodness for the holidays and their tendency to break people out of their ruts and send them back home for a bit of grounding…
During the Holidays, I met with my friends and family multiple times and one topic of conversation that came up very often was Facebook. “What’s Facebook?” my mom would ask. “Why are people so fascinated with it” my brother-in-law would add. “It’s useless” or “it’s a waste of time” would also come up very often. The proof of the whole uselessness was the “poking” and the “sending my friends a virtual beer” examples. I tried explaining Facebook the way I’ve explained it many times in this blog but I quickly realized I was getting nowhere. My friends and family members that thought Facebook was useless wouldn’t change opinion even after I explained my big social media theories.
PreFacebook Life of a Techie
Yea these many years ago, I was a kid playing Pong on my family’s vintage black and white TV… I could and did play that thing all day (was it an Odyssey? I think it came from Sears). Then it was Atari… in color! Space Invaders, then Atroids, PacMan and beyond. And I owned a few of the first handheld “videogames”… football and car racing come to mind.
In college, I dragged along my old Atari into the dorm, risking and receiving a bit of ridicule, but soon enough we were engage in epic tournaments of some four player “breakout” type game where each guy tried to protect his king in his castle of bricks… alliances made around the beanbag chair on the shag carpet… daggers plunged into backs… great fun.
Then it was on to music… collecting other people’s music. My chosen low-budget approach was making audio tapes from borrowed or rented albums and recording off the radio (the college station played complete albums)… later CDs.
I was the first person I knew to buy a PDA… a Casio with a full keyboard… oh man I loved that thing. A buddy and I used its built-in spreadsheet software to track a cross-country road trip, among many other uses.
Sometime after grad school, I landed a job that included broadband access at my desk… wow! The web didn’t have much to offer yet, but email was incredible. I corresponded with every old friend and family member I could find that used email (and didn’t try to keep in touch with those who weren’t online).
While I typically worked conscientiously at this job, now I had a growing set of diversions at my fingertips… (1) computer games mysteriously living on my hard drive, (2) music I could play on my CD drive and research on the web, (3) contacts and calendar I could manage on my PDA, and (4) friends and family whom I could email. It’s a miracle that I accomplished as much as I did at that position.
Which brings me back to Sebastien’s point above about Facebook. I have a Facebook account and I’ve nosed around repeatedly… but for the life of me, I have no interest. Am I the only one not on board? Sometimes I think so… but then I have a moment like Sebastien’s homecoming and I realize that MOST people are not on or deeply into Facebook.
And when I look at my life now… it’s very different than when I was a teenager or in my 20s and spent a large amount of time on entertainment… games, music, socializing. Now, as a husband, father of young kids, son of aging parents, active member of my community (i.e., the place where I live my “first life”), and business owner… well, I’m in a very different place. I’m blessed that my “entertainment” is woven into the daily fabric of a rich and mostly balanced life… very different than emailing distant and fading old friends from a lonely cubicle.
Facebook offers next to nothing for me now. From age 13 to 33 I would have been all over it. But I don’t long for any online tools at this point. In fact, I want to spend less time interacting with and through technology and more with kids, neighbors, extended family and other people in my life. Front Porch Forum evolved out of this situation.
Follow the Kids, Dummy
One last point, many voices can be heard saying we should bow down to Facebook and other services that cater to youth… because obviously that’s the way of the future. Follow the children!
Hmm. I know lots of kids, teenagers and people in their 20s. Lots of wonderful young folks. They bring much to the discussion… but I’m not ready to abdicate my responsibility as an adult, parent and community leader in order to follow the lead of a gang of 17 year olds.
What a loss for all involved if my father had chucked what he was all about and spent his time with me playing Atari, collecting bootlegged Bruce Springsteen and Replacement albums, and trying to keep the connection alive to that guy named Bill from bio class years after we parted ways. No, he was busy doing real things of consequence with real people in real time and space.
And he (and other adults in my life) got me outside, involved in my community, working, to the family dinner table, etc. He didn’t forbid me my “screen time”… but he saw it as play time… not as the guiding principal around which his generation should mold our society.
A New Entertainment Industry Born
Hollywood, pop music, video games… all established entertainment industries. And now Facebook and others have created an industry out of a collection of things we’ve always done (social networking)… souped it all up considerably. I’m interested to see where this all goes, but not keen to jump in or give it too much weight. More and more Americans seem to be spending more and more time, money and emotional energy on entertainment… reminds me of what I recall learning of the latter days of another empire.
I was moved when I read the following post by Therese on the ONE East Neighborhood Forum yesterday…
My neighbors have temporarily taken in a refugee family from Somalia who fell through the cracks during a resettlement move. The family landed in Burlington last night with only the clothes on their backs. There is a mom, dad and four kids. The boys are 2 and 5 and the girls are 8 and 10 and they are average size kids for their ages. My neighbors are college kids who have opened up their home to this family until they get into the system. Whatever vouchers, etc, that they are supposed to have….did not come through yet.
Regardless, they need some more clothes and we have done okay with the parents but need to get some children’s clothes and shoes. I gave them some stuffed animals but am sure toys would be helpful too. If you have anything in decent shape lying around that you don’t need in sizes that you think might fit these kids….would you be willing to donate it to them? We will give anything not needed or that does not fit to the Salvation Army or St. Vincent De Paul or anywhere else you might suggest that it could help people. If you have anything you want to donate please just leave it on the front porch. Thank you in advance for anything you donate. Peace to everyone!
So now today’s follow up really made my day…
When I posted last night asking for some clothes and toys for the Somalian refugee family I had no idea that people would be so incredibly generous!!! The response we received today was overwhelming. We have plenty of clothes and toys for them right now. In fact we will be bringing the extras to other refugees and to some local thrift store/charity places.
The college students who are putting them up said that the family will hopefully be moving into an apartment within a week or so and at that point they may need some more things for the house. I will post again if and when they inform me of specific items the family might need.
I wish everyone who donated things could have seen the looks on the children’s faces when we gave them the toys and clothes. Last night they were timid and scared and wearing clothes that did not fit. Tonight they were not scared, already learned some English (wow, kids can learn a language fast) and bewildered but happy. It was also important that they had some warmer clothes and now they do!!! Thanks to all of you who donated to help this family!!
In a neighborhood that has it struggles with irresponsible college students, the beautiful action taken by these UVM kids to help a family in need is wonderful. And I’m glad that their neighbors can see that through Front Porch Forum, and that so many folks are pitching in with clothes, toys, etc.
I admit that I’ve never been much of an online social networker. I’ve watched various sites come on the scene, some skyrocket, and some fall back down to earth. The latest darling, of course, is Facebook. I’ve tried a few times to immerse myself in it supposedly life-giving waters, but I end up hopping out after a quick lap… feels like a waste of time for me. I know others whom I respect find it valuable, so it remains one of life’s mysteries… gotta love the unknown.
Except I’m beginning to hear what may grow into a chorus of the disenchanted. Here are a couple not who also are not drawn to Facebook… apophenia (see comments too) and DevLife (writes about Front Porch Forum too).
Last school year we had many college students sign up with Front Porch Forum. Now, with a new school year kicking off, we’re seeing dozens of them registering each day this week… University of Vermont, Champlain College, St. Michael’s College, Burlington College, etc.
That’s great! Burlington has its share of town-gown challenges, including a small percentage of ill-behaving off-campus students giving all college kids a bad name. So we were thrilled when students started joining their neighborhood’s FPF forum and posting messages like…
Hi – I’m Kelly and I’m living on Prospect St this year in an apartment with two friends. I’m a junior studying to be a teacher and I’m looking for babysitting jobs during the school year to help pay tuition. References available.
Good for Kelly. Good for the neighborhood. Now instead of just the drunken lout passed out in their hedge on Sunday morning, nearby homeowners have a competing image in mind… hard-working college kid.
It’s interesting too to chat with some of these students about FPF and how it compares with other online social networking services that they know so well… Facebook, etc. Bottom line seems to be… Front Porch Forum is, simply, different. If you care about your neighborhood or want to connect with your nearby neighbors, it’s the only place to go.
So, welcome back to town students! And welcome to Front Porch Forum.
P.S. One more point… I’ve been surprised by the geographic dispersion of the college students across the county. While there’s a concentration in the well known “student ghetto” near the UVM main campus, we’re also seeing a number of students sign up in small outlying villages, rural areas and suburbs.