Yesterday I wrote about Erin DiMeglio, the first girl to play quarterback in a Florida high school football game. Uncertain about how I would react if my daughter asked to play football, I wrote a post parsing out some of my feelings on the subject.
Later that evening, Erin DiMeglio’s coach, Doug Gatewood, commented on the post and his wife, Bethany Gatewood, contacted me via Facebook.
An hour later Doug also contacted me via Facebook, asking to steal a line from the post for use with his football team this year.
I told him I’d be honored.
It an excellent reminder of the power of the Internet. Less than fifteen years ago, it would have been almost impossible for Doug Gatewood and I to exchange words. I would have read about Erin DiMeglio in the New York Times, wondered about how I would feel if she had been my daughter, conversed with my wife and perhaps some friends on the subject and moved on with life.
Today I am able to express my thoughts on the subject on a network connected to every other computer in the world, including Doug and Bethany Gatewood’s computer.
Presumably Erin DiMeglio’s computer as well.
Presumably as a result of a Google search or a Google Alert, Doug and his wife were able to find my post on the Internet and access social media to converse with me.
We sometimes forget how incredible this technology really is. It feels as if we have been living with the Internet forever, but not so very long ago, this type of communication would have been unimaginable.
It’s also a good lesson for me to bring back to my students. As we begin to live more and more of our lives online, we must remember how truly public our words are. While I have never been afraid of criticizing people when I disagree with their words or actions, this evening’s exchange with Doug and Bethany Gatewood serve as a reminder that the words we write can easily land in the laps of our subjects and often do.
I am not suggestions that criticism is wrong. Even harsh criticism is warranted at times. But it should be measured carefully before one sends it out into the world. For all intents and purposes, Erin DiMeglio, Doug Gatewood and Bethany Gatewood are sitting over my shoulder as a write, capable of reading my every word.
Last night Doug and Bethany Gatewood did just that, and their words in response to mine meant a great deal to me. As a writer, there is nothing better than learning that my words have meant something to a person.
The fact that Doug and Bethany play an important role in the subject of my post made it even more meaningful. One of those moments I hope to never forget.