Moving Across Virtual Continents

A little over a year ago, I took a job which I though was going to be a great opportunity. To do something I love in an environment I appreciate and respect… Who wouldn’t? I don’t think I’m stretching it too much when I say that what I found was actually a bit more, and I currently have the best job in the world, working with the coolest people in the world, on the most amazing products in the world. Yeah, it’s that awesome.

But I did have to abandon something along the way. As many of you know, another part of my life is dedicated to podcasting. This is not just a fun hobby I do when I have time. It’s a passion I’ve dedicated myself to with perseverance I didn’t know I had. And at the heart of that passion is a group of people with whom I grew into who I am today as a podcaster. People like Scott Johnson, Randy Jordan, Shawn Coons, Mark Turpin, Mike Schramm, Mike Gaines, Brent Lassi, Alachia, Molly, Nicole and Marc Spagnuolo, and many others.
Four years ago, I started participating in different podcasts, and I started forming bonds with all these people. I wouldn’t see them often of course: we all live thousands of miles apart. But every few days we’d “meet” to host a show, or I’d listen to one of their shows, or they’d listen to one of mine. Every few days, for years.

Over the months, I started knowing them. Better maybe than if we had lived I the same city. Even the ones I wouldn’t host shows with too often. You see, a podcast is very different from an established media production. You appear there the way you are in real life. No fake tone of voice, no prepared narrative, no artificial interest for an interview you don’t care about. And when you listen to someone’s shows, you feel like you know them a little bit. And then, when two podcast hosts who have never spoken to one another actually meet, there’s something a little bit magical that happens. You say hi and start talking like you’ve been friends for years. I remember one time when I called someone, and found myself genuinely surprised when we realized we had never spoken before. There really is something unique about podcasting.
Imagine for a minute, if you can actually feel that way about someone you’ve never spoken to, what it must be like when you DO talk to them every day or week. Friendship is made of these things…
It’s a very specific, vibrant community, which has no equivalent anywhere else. Over time you start realizing that all these people are not “Internet friends”, or “chat buddies” or “podcast people”, they’re just… friends.
If I could create an actual city where we could all live for real and meet for dinner and drinks, I’d do it. But I can’t, and this other city we’ve created for ourselves, made of Skype, Ustream, Twitter, Facebook, iTunes, and all this things that don’t really exist, is almost as real to us as anything you can touch. And that place is where this particular group of friends lives.

And then you move to New York.

Except New York is a job which creates a conflict of interest with the topic on which your community is built, so you have to stop being a part of it.
When I took that job, I speculated that this would be what it felt like. Not being able to talk to them as often, in the same setting. Moving far far away. I did it before: a long time ago, I move to Japan, away from my childhood friends and my familly. We’d still talk on the phone, send emails, or chat on ICQ from time to time (kids, ICQ is kind of like MSN Messenger, only older and uglier), but it wasn’t the same of course. I was in Japan, and I missed my friends. And now that I’m back in Paris, I appreciate every chance I get to hug them for a birthday or Christmas, or just to have a face to face lunch.
Obvious, right?
Well, I still chat with my podcaster friends. We tweet, we send emails, we share links on Facebook. Hell, I even still host shows with some of them from time to time. But it’s not the same… I’m in Japan now. That’s exactly how it feels like. Said like that, I imagine it’s easy to understand for someone who doesn’t know that world, and that’s why I’m making the analogy. Some of you might think that this is a bit exaggerated. Surely these people rarely met aren’t as present in my mind and my heart as my “real” friends. I assure you you’re mistaken. My community, along with other communities of people who only talk through “vent” or “TS”, or pwn each other on this or that game, or God knows what else, forms bonds that are just as real and valuable as the ones you know.

And I hope I’ll come back to my virtual home in that community one day, but for now I’ve moved across a virtual continent, and I miss my friends.

NB: I’m writing this from an airport where I’m waiting for my delayed flight, and there are a lot of people here who are far from their friends and family. So I’m sending out a special thought to everyone out there, in an airport, or abroad, or anywhere: I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. Today there’s only love, and you get your share. 🙂

PS: Writing all this, I also have to mention the community. The listeners, the ones who contribute, the ones who take part, the ones who just send one email, once, just to say hi or thanks… We’re not journalists, a million miles away behind the camera. We’re just one of the guys and gals, except we talk in the mic sometimes. There is real warmth and real comfort there. I love and miss all of you too.

December 24th, 2010