Making Friends on the Web

Some of us are introverts. I’m an introvert. I can spend a whole weekend inside working away on my computer and be surprisingly content.

Even though I’m alone at a desk, I still have the potential to make friends all around the world. I’ll never forget the time a girl from China messaged me on Skype. She asked me to help her with a Photoshop project.

She lived in Hong Kong. I don’t know how she knew I would be able to help with her Photoshop project… I had literally helped another student with a similar project that day.

Closer Than You Think
This is the travel poster I designed for the unknown overseas college student. I was hoping that she would study the layers and learn how shadow effects worked. (Insert eye roll here)

The day she reached out, I had accidentally turned my Skype settings to allow anyone to message me. At first, I was surprised that someone from Hong Kong was trying to message me. I thought she might be a scammer. But, she quickly mentioned the Photoshop project and because it paralleled with what I had helped another student with earlier that day, I listened.

uiw-mac-lab-communication-art-aaron-garcia-geekdomAt the time I had a work-study job at UIW where I helped students with creative projects on Mac computers. I really enjoyed sharing what I knew about Final Cut Pro X, Photoshop, WordPress, and Apple computers in general with students and faculty. They would ask me how to do this and that, each time I somehow knew the answer.

I’ve spent more than a decade with my eyes on a screen. If the computer were a physical world, I could say I’ve seen many countries. I’ve learned how to edit videos, photos, extensively explored Excel’s capabilities, configured DNS Records, run virtual machines, created ISOs, recovered deleted files, experimented with steganography, generated strong passwords, used Terminal, made PDFs searchable with OCR, converted various file types, created encrypted archive files, opened a Bitcoin wallet, designed a font, I’ve installed many operating systems, and the list continues.

For as much time as I’ve spent alone on the computer, the Internet has introduced me to many new people who I’ll never meet in person. I’ve held conversations with Londoners and Asians. I use software from Canada and Switzerland. I’ve made friends and had many arguments with people from around the globe on social media.

I’ve found that I prefer making friends. Skip the politics, there’s more to life than that.

I recently commented on K.C. Wise’s blog blackbunchedmassmom.com. I read her about page, which will inspire improvements to my own. I feel as if I know her, even though I’ve only read a few posts and her about page. It was a great post, inspired profound reflection, I recommend giving it a read.

While there are those who insist meeting in person is a prerequisite to forging a lasting friendship… I point out that for the heavy thinkers — it is our thoughts, our souls that are boundless and can travel across the world; echoing into time.

Obama needs no introduction. With as much as we’ve seen him and heard him speak, it’s like we know him. Social media gives us the opportunity to experience a similar phenomenon mutually.

So if you want to be my friend, simply comment on my blog and follow me on Twitter. The Internet is the world’s largest mixer. We may know how easy it is to argue with a complete stranger, but how about transforming strangers into friends?

Plagiarism is Not an Option

It was the fall of 2002, I was in 6th grade, briskly walking to the library to inquire about a tri-fold presentation I had turned in a few days earlier. I was sure I would win 1st place. When I asked the librarian about my project, she summoned the dean.

This was the first time I had ever met a dean. Up until that point, I didn’t even know the school had one. She was very friendly. She told me that my presentation had been disqualified.

“Disqualified,” I repeated in disbelief. She then asked me if I knew why. I honestly couldn’t think of any reason for my presentation to be disqualified, so I told her no. “Plagiarism,” she said. “Do you know what plagiarism is?” she asked; slowly realizing I had never been introduced to the concept. I again responded with a simple no.

After a lengthy explanation that somehow wandered from paraphrasing whole paragraphs of a digital encyclopedia into the copyright restrictions on typography, I had been thoroughly converted to pledging the rest of my life to being original. I would never again plagiarize or so much use anything remotely close to something I didn’t make 100% myself.

Through the rest of my academic career, I worked extra hard. I was never tempted to plagiarize because it simply wasn’t an option. Every paper I wrote and every presentation I gave had to be original. As original as possible. I began to scrutinize how original, a person like me, could realistically be.

Has this phrase been used before? Is a PowerPoint template bad? How about this example résumé? Before I knew it I was questioning everything, down to the fonts used on my business cards. If someone else made it, I wasn’t using it, because it wasn’t mine. I’d have to change it quite a bit before putting my name to it. And to my credit, there are instances where I brought up a valid point. “No, you can’t use that photo randomly pulled off Google!”

But still, it’s hard. Someone once said, “No man is an island.” A quick Google search will reveal who said that and at least 100 others plagiarizing it. There is no way you could be completely self-made. There’s no such thing as a self-made billionaire. Everyone had a mother. English is not my invention. And prose was around long before I could write.

Even so, plagiarism is not an option. Credit must be given where credit is due. And with that, no work is completely original. By the way, this website was developed by Squarespace, I just dropped in photos taken on God’s earth and decided how to arrange the English language on this page. My business cards were also printed by Moo.