Two weeks from today I leave for Washington DC for the Washington Journalism and Media Conference hosted by George Mason University. 22 days ago I printed off the transcript for a chat forum that I missed for the conference. I was hoping it would answer a few a questions I had. What I found was so much better.
In the forum, a few people were talking about this group chat that was going on, on an app called GroupMe. A girl named Kayla offered up her email address, saying if you wanted to join the group chat you could email her. I immediately emailed her, and by that afternoon I was in the middle of the craziest conversation of my life.
I was the 74th person to join the group chat (there will be about 280 people at the conference), and since then there’s now about 80 of us. At any given time, there’s anywhere from 2 to 15 people talking at once, so it’s a little insane. In the chat we have people from all over the country, spanning from California, to Maine, to Saipan, which is a US owned territory kinda near Japan.
We talk about everything from music to TV shows to what’s going on on the news to food to what’s going on in our towns to politics to our hobbies to our own personal issues to what we’re wearing at the conference, etc etc etc. We’ve pretty much covered it all. We’re all around the same age- 15 to 18 years old- but we all have different outlooks, experiences, and opinions. We’re not afraid to talk about controversial issues, such as gun control rights, immigration, gay rights, etc. We don’t always agree with one another, but with as many people that are involved in the conversation, that’s near impossible.
But no matter if we agree or disagree with another person, we are ALWAYS polite and civil. We let them share their opinion, and instead of immediately calling them an idiot for not having the same opinion, we ask them to clarify or explain why they feel this way. And instead of arguing over who is right and who is wrong, we all gain a greater understanding of why people see things from a certain viewpoint.
I know I can be stubborn at times, but it is truly fascinating and enlightening to learn why people see things from a different point of view. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m sometimes wrong, and even if I still don’t agree with a few people, I at least have a more well rounded view on the topic.
After we’re done talking about a certain issue, as controversial as it may be, we move on. We don’t hold grudges and we aren’t resentful. What I find interesting is, if a group of teenagers can do that, why can’t adults do the same? If you go on Facebook and read the comments for really any given topic nowadays, many of them are hurtful, rude, and ignorant- and they serve no purpose other than that.
That’s why I love this group chat. I may not agree with Amanda on every single thing, but if she sends a message in the group chat at 2am saying she’s scared because an earthquake just woke her up, you can bet that I’ll be one of a dozen people sending her comforting messages until she falls back asleep. No matter what, we’re always supporting and encouraging each other, and the most incredible thing is, most of us have never met in person.
A lot of the people in the group chat suffer from anxiety and general self doubt. Before joining this group chat most of us were super nervous about not knowing anybody and whether or not we’d be able to make friends at the conference. This group chat has calmed a lot of nerves and for many of us, provided an online support system. We have truly become what our group chat is named, WJMC family.
I’ve had the chance to Skype with a lot of people going, but I can’t wait to meet them all in person. It’s so cool to have a group of people that love writing as much as I do. But I think it’s our various differences and how they all come together that’s even cooler.