That Ties That Bind
Was missing my little sister the other day, wishing as I often do that she lives closer (I’m in NJ, she’s in Hawaii). Which got me thinking about the ties that bind us to one another, both on- and off-line. It wasn’t too long ago that I still found it fundamentally weird to imagine emotional bonds could be formed with people we’ve never met, that digital ties could be just as influential as the bonds we share with the “real” people in our lives.
Until I experienced my first blog crush. His name was Keith. I remember the day I discovered his Malls of America blog as if it were yesterday. Here was a true kindred spirit, someone equally obsessed with vintage shopping malls as I was. The blog was a treasure trove of shopping mall paraphenelia, from old youtube ads to scans of original floorplans and best of all, postcards featuring mid-century mall interiors at their finest. All accompanied by thoughtful insight and charming reminiscence — lending a wistful poignancy to what in different hands would have been just another digital round-up of retro-camp.
Keith, you had me at “center court fountain…” (via mallsofamerica )
Oh, I couldn’t get enough — Keith’s posts were as quenching to my nostalgic thirst as the Orange Juliuses my sister and I slurped down on Saturday afternoons at the Capitol City Mall circa 1982. But one day, it all came to an end. August 28, 2007 — the day Keith disappeared. The cessation of his posts caused an uproar among his followers but to no avail. After 222 comments to what we can now assume was Keith’s final post, a message appeared saying that all further posts would be deleted by a site administrator.
I was completely unprepared for how hard hit I’d be by the disappearance in my life of someone who WAS NEVER REALLY THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. The ties that bound me to Keith were purely those of a very specific shared interest. I was emotionally fulfilled in the cozy embrace of a virtual community united by a love of old malls and adoration of a blogger who conjured phrases like “beautiful, butterscotchy dream of a vintage interior” to describe the faded image of a mid-60s mall corridor.
So now that I’ve experienced the pain and the ecstasy of blog love firsthand, I’m much better equipped to speak with real conviction to clients about the emotional power of the digital ties that bind, and the importance of online communities in the overall landscape of influence. So to Keith, my deepest thanks. You’ve enriched me personally and professionally. May the Muzak play and the Orange Juliuses flow freely … wherever you may be.