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This must be the place

art theplaceY’all are doing it wrong.

You know, that thing? Social media? What happened? How did the endless fun and unlimited curiosity of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter become so dark, vile and negative? Since when is your neighbor an enemy to be reckoned with or your longtime friend the nemesis you never thought possible?

From my front porch, I see a society full of conflict, misunderstandings and lack of proper knowledge to push forth into the beautiful modern world we all deserve. I like that people have different opinions, views and ideologies — that’s what a real democracy is, a variety of people coming together to find common ground. Before, if you and I didn’t agree on something, it didn’t mean I disliked you, it was just a difference in viewpoints. Now? It seems if someone doesn’t share your same values or political affiliation, then they are automatically “against” you. 

Simply put, whereas “innocent until proven guilty” was the past, society today hollers “guilty until proven innocent.” 

In the recent light of pop culture issues (no need to state them, we’re all aware), it is appalling to see such juvenile manners directed at your fellow man. You remember we’re all this together, right? Do you really wake up in the morning ready to attack someone or something? What does it take to put a smile on your face or shoeshine on your soul? In essence, it shouldn’t take much to find happiness. Damn, just look at your window. Is there immaculate sunshine, bluebird skies, a happy-go-lucky dog, magnificent tree or a little kid joyously riding a bike? Even one of those things should be enough to thaw the coldest of hearts. 

In my own endeavors, I use social media to connect, not disconnect. I aim to spread positivity and knowledge. I want everyone who sees my posts to maybe take a moment in their day to shake their heads in awe of how incredible it is to be alive, here and now in the universe. The cosmos lies in genuine human contact, in kindness (which breeds kindness), in the simplicity of saying hello to an old friend or crossing paths with someone new, a person so amazing you find yourself saying, “Where have you been all my life?” That, my darlings, is what social media is meant to do.

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Case in point, what I had for dinner last Tuesday — a delicious meal and hearty conversation. Who made the food and partook in the banter? Oh, some friends I met online. 

David, his wife Lana, and their daughter Ashley. I met David on a Facebook comment thread for The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. We both liked this great roots group, and we both lived only about eight miles apart. I’m in Waynesville. He’s right over the hill in Maggie Valley. We’ve kept in touch for the better part of the last two years, trading songs we liked, sharing interesting things we came across, all of it via Facebook. So, finally, we decided to meet last week and do dinner.

Rolling up to their place, David was already hard at work at the grill, cooking up steak tips and brats. Lana was setting the table outside, while Ashley took care of the remaining details. Originally from Michigan, the couple fell in love with Western North Carolina while on vacation and decided to start a new life here. Ashley, though still up in “The Wolverine State,” comes to visit now and again, with hopes of also migrating south someday. 

Sure, they were complete strangers, but then again, all friends were strangers at one time. What’s the fun in existing if you never expand your social circle? Besides I have yet to meet someone I didn’t like who supremely rocks out to Grand Funk Railroad, Gov’t Mule and Rush (am I right, David?). 

Thus, we sat down for dinner. And for the next four hours the conversation never lost a beat. Myself being from Upstate New York, we found camaraderie in truly knowing what a “real North Country winter” feels like. We laughed over anything and everything, and also shared deeply held thoughts, beliefs, fears and desires. All the cards thrown on the table, all without judgment or ridicule. It was how conversation is supposed to occur — a two-way street of respect planted at the foundation of the interaction.

Eventually, I had to say goodbye, for now. I jumped into my truck, put the key into the ignition, and pulled out onto U.S. 19 East. As the cool evening breeze swept into the vehicle, my foot pushing down on the accelerator, a smile rolled across my face. I had three new friends in my life, three new voices to pull inspiration and ideas from, three new viewpoints to add to the collection on the shelves of my spirit. 

The power of social media. Wild, eh?

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