Being Present

This last weekend I was extremely lucky to be able to go to CONvergence, part of which is SkepchickCON. Part of this included meeting, talking to, hanging out with, and being on a panel with, some of my fellow writers here at Teen Skepchick, and even Rebecca Watson (our great and fearless leader). It was FANTASTIC. And as all of you are young people getting involved in various movements (or such is our intended audience), I thought that perhaps I could give you all an idea of why I am now completely committed to in person meetings and rallies when it comes to things like the skeptical movement. I know that there are great benefits to the online community, and I’m certainly not trying to downplay how wonderful online friends are. I also am well aware that as young people, it’s often harder to choose where and when we go places, find funds, and get time away from school or summer jobs. However I think there are some real benefits to in person organizing, conferences, and friendships that can really get us fired up about making this movement run.

I’d have to say that for me the most exciting thing about Con was the motivation it brought me. I went in feeling tired and annoyed with my summer and came out thinking I HAVE TO DO MORE FOR THE SKEPTIC MOVEMENT. ALSO I HAVE TO BEFRIEND REBECCA IN A NON CREEPY WAY. I think there are a number of reasons for this excitement. First and foremost is humor. It can be hard to get a feel for someone’s sense of humor online (mostly because sarcasm doesn’t work). But when you’re in person and joking with someone, seeing them do silly and hilarious things and really enjoy themselves while ALSO doing great work and being amazing organizers, you realize just how fun the community is, how much you want to be in it, and how good the work is for these people’s souls. You also see how supportive they are of each other. Some of the older organizers have friendships going back years, and they have clearly been through a lot together. It’s heartening to realize that you can find a second family among the movement if you look for it. That doesn’t quite come through just by reading blog posts. Additionally, there’s an immediacy to the interests the other people have. You get swept up in what their causes are, and you see how all of their personal stories intersect with their causes. You get the face behind the beliefs in a way that doesn’t always come through when someone is trying to present an online image.

Beyond this excitement, there are also resources to being together in person. You get immediate reactions, intense discussions that link things together in an intersectional way, you can speak to real people in face time, do volunteer work, rallies, campaigning, etc. etc. Writing a blog post can make a big difference, but speaking to someone in person, or being present at a debate has a bigger impact on those who are outside of the movement. Many of the panels that I attended were also attended by other CON kids who were not a part of the skeptic movement. It was nice to see that we were navel gazing, but potentially making an impact on new people. This also means that you can gain the resources of the other people around you: the newer members of a group can learn from the older members, and the older members can gain energy and excitement from the newer members.

There’s a lot to be said for the internet and what it’s done for movements like skepticism and feminism, the communities its created for otherwise cut off individuals, and the power that it holds. There’s also a whole different power to being with your community members in person, and it’s a power that is exciting, fun, joyful and motivating. I had one of the best times of my life at CON, so for any other new skeptics out there who have the opportunity to meet and hang out with their online friends in real life…DO IT!

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at


  1. July 17, 2012 at 4:02 am —

    YES. This.

  2. July 28, 2012 at 7:03 pm —

    Agreed! It’s awesome and fun to get to hang out with other internet activists/friends/connections from the movement.

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