The Internet goes by many names, but I think the web is one of the most apt. The Internet creates a network that links disparate groups and can unite those with unique experiences. Online forums are a perfect example. People who may never exchange a word in real life can almost magically create a community and converse on the regular. My origin piece centers on my experience with hospice, and during my brainstorming I wanted to see if I could find an online community for other people with similar experiences. A Reddit page called r/hospice quickly popped up.
What immediately surprised me was the myriad of content and posters. There were short personal entries, most no longer than a paragraph, about hospice volunteers like myself and the experiences and struggles they were going through. There were posts from family members of hospice patients encouraging and informing others about palliative care. There were even posts
from hospice employees about fun games to play with patients. I was struck by the sense of community and the fact that so many people had turned to the web as a means of self-expression and connect with others in similar circumstances. A lot of the time I see the online communities as high risk for toxicity and trolling facilitated by the glory of digital anonymity. However, r/hospice and a second hospice board I found were so overwhelmingly positive.
Just as the type of posts on the forum were varied, so too are the conventions of the post as a genre. Some of the guidelines were outlined very clearly in the forum sidebar. No medical advice posts. No protected health information. No memes (a real loss). Some of the conventions
were less explicit. Almost every post begins with the individual’s personal experience, and leads into either a question or advice. Formatting was not a huge focus of posters, and James Joyce would be happy to know that stream-of-consciousness is still alive and well (though also not a necessity, as some of the best posts were narratives of patient’s last hours that were as clear as they were poignant).
For my experiment, I want to convert my origin piece (a journal entry about my hospice experience) into one of these forum posts. In this class we are supposed to have to freedom to fail spectacularly, but given the positivity of my audience, I have almost no doubt my post will be received well. That said, I do think several elements of this transformation reflect a significant change. I’m moving away from a personal journal entry into something I intend an entire community to consume and more importantly respond to. A forum post is much more organic and alive, subject to change, revision, and unexpected directions. I’m honestly tempted to make a post even if I don’t make this experiment my semester project, because I definitely have stuff to get off my chest.