In all my social media experience, I never considered connecting with people outside of my friends and family. The idea of reaching out to strangers and participating in discussions about different interests and views never appealed to me. However, this all changed last summer when I was preparing for my first trip to the Electric Forest music and arts festival. For those of you who are unaware of this festival, it’s in Rothbury Michigan and it takes place over a four-day period in June. A wide range of artists come to perform their music on one of the festivals many stages. Even more compelling than the music, is the forest itself. Some would say the real experience begins after the music is finished and the sun is long gone. The forest turns into an artistic nirvana, filled with vibrant lights, and mind blowing art installations. Characters meander in extravagant costumes and makeup which makes the experience that much more fascinating.
My friends are veterans of the festival as most of them have been attending since its very first year. Why it took me so long to go I’ll never know. Hearing stories and looking at photos, were no longer enough for me; I needed to experience it for myself. Every story I heard about Electric Forest had a common theme; a sense of community. This shared experience encompasses the festival itself and continues long after it’s over. There are various Reddit threads dedicated to all things Electric Forest. The day before the festival, avid followers meet at a Wal-Mart parking lot roughly 20 minutes from the festival grounds. Cars and trucks from all over the country fill up the parking spaces for a huge pre-Forest celebration. Through Reddit, I learned many festival goers extend camping invitations to those travelling alone or in smaller groups, ensuring everyone feels a part of the Electric Forest family. Strangers become friends all because of this remarkable shared experience. As we walked around the parking lot, we exchanged smiles and greetings of “Happy Forest” with all the eager attendees. The vibe was infectious. What amazed me the most was that hundreds of people from all over the country arrived at this Wal-Mart parking lot (in the middle of nowhere) from one social media platform. You can only imagine the atmosphere inside the actual festival. A reinvented Woodstock-like vibe flows through the forest and people can simply be themselves with no fear of judgment. Everyone is passionate about the music and the idea of coming together and having a shared experience. The thing I love most, is that this beautiful community, blossomed from a single music festival into an open-ended, virtual experience; all powered by social media.
Today I still find myself reading through Reddit threads about previous Forest years and everyone’s opinions on what’s to come. I’m amazed at how so many people make such a conscious effort to stay connected. My views and expectations regarding communicating and participating in the online world have changed significantly. There are so many online communities to participate in but it’s incredible to see one that extends to the real world too. Social Media is such a powerful tool, and it can bring people together on and off the screen.