Digital Friendship

Kim’s post today inspired me to think for a second about online friendships.  I started to leave her a comment, and it was clearly becoming way too damned long, so I said to hell with it, I’d make it its own post.  (Hey, it gets me back on the blogging horse a bit, huh?)  

I feel like I can speak with some authority on the topic.  After all, I’m an old pro at this whole online-friend thing.

A long career on a MUD will do that for ya. My great pal Michael, the one who’s bringing his new fiancee over next month? Yeah. I’d known him since the mid-90s but never met him until about five years ago. Spent hours and hours gaming (including fighting side-by-side in one of the most infamous player/player gang wars in the history of that MUD), blabbing, talking about music and relationships and life and anything else you could name, but never met him. And truthfully, he was (and is) one of the best friends I’ve ever had. Same thing with people disappearing off the map. Usually they’d pop back in a year or so later just to say “Hi, I got a new job and married” or “Whattaya know, I’m in the army now!” or even “Uh, so did I tell you I came out of the closet?” Sometimes you’d hear word through other, closer contacts. And sometimes they’d just disappear.

That was hardest of all. Especially if, say, you were kinda sorta in love with that person. Like I was with Dys. She vanished into thin air on two separate occasions, and boy did <i>that</i> suck.

That’s why I’m a lot more willing to get in contact with people through email and so forth nowadays. If somebody falls off the map, we can at least figure out if they’re okay, right? 

Some people ask the question, “Why worry about it?  They’re just people online, you don’t really know them.  Even when you think you do, you don’t.”  Well, true, but how many of us really know our real friends?  Or even our significant others, for that matter?  

I know I’m somewhat pathetic and not even in the same area code as what most people would consider “normal” when it comes to my social abilities and my circle of friends.  But let me tell you, when I got married, my online friends were as happy as anyone – one drove hours to come to our reception.  When my son was born, it was my online friends who celebrated and who listened to my proud ramblings and my kinda-scared “Holy shit, I gotta get my shit together!” blubbering.  When my wife and I were having problems, it was our online friends who provided support and sympathetic ears.  I don’t believe in a line that separates your online friends from your real friends.  Either you are…or you’re not.  Same as everybody else.

Michael once said that, when he was arguing with his ex-fiancee (and we never told him this, but holy hell did Dys and I high-five when he told us he dumped her), she attempted to take the “they’re not real friends” position with him.  She said, “They’re not real friends if you couldn’t imagine leaving your kids with them.  Without hesitation.”  And without blinking, he said “I’d leave my kids with TB and Dys.  Any day of the week.”  And honestly, when he told us about it, we felt the same way.  And we probably feel the same way about a certain gargantuan pool shark in Honolulu.

In the last year or so, thanks to our blogs, I’d venture to say that our list of online-friends that meet that definition has doubled.  At least.  

I don’t consider you guys my “online friends.”  I call you “blog-buddies” from time to time but only because I think the term is funny, not because it’s pejorative.  I’ve come to think of you as my friends.  That might not put you in the best company on earth, but it’s a fairly short list, and it makes every name on it the more dear to me.  

Thanks for being a friend.

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8 Responses

  1. **sniff, sniff**

    Lovely post, TB. As you know, I feel very similarly about online friendships, and am lucky enough to have met some of the people who are my online friends, even though they mostly live far away from me. I hope to meet more one day!

    We all lead very busy lives these days- to be honest, most of my contact with my off net friends is carried out online too- so it’s natural to me to have what can become strong friendship online.

    I know I’ve probably blogged about this subject more than most, given the phenomenal level of support I’ve received from online friends since I got my cancer diagnosis- but if anything, that just reinforces the fact.

    Thanks for being MY friend, too. 🙂

    Trust me, it’s been my pleasure. 🙂

  2. The song from The Golden Girls is in my head now. Thanks a LOT!

    If you weren’t my friend I’d kick you in the shins for that. 😉

    Oh shit, and I’d so deserve it! I hadn’t even thought of it until you mentioned it, but now it’s in MY head! Make it stop!!

  3. I LOVE YOU MAN!

    I still think we should all figure out a way to get together, some day.

    I keep muddling my mind around that problem and I wish to hell I had a good solution. Because I agree, that idea ROCKS.

  4. You put it a lot more eloquently than I did, but either way, that was so awesome! I may or may not have just gotten a little choked up – NO, that’s just something in my eye!

    Yeah, yeah. 😉

  5. Wow, I almost started crying when I read this. Damn hormones. You mean a lot to me too. But, it’s okay if you don’t want to leave your kid with me. I wouldn’t leave my kid with me, either.

    Yeah, making preggo chicks cry is like shooting fish in a barrel. 😀

  6. It is weird when virtual people know you better than real world folk. It may be because it’s slowed down. You don’t have to formulate a response NOW! You can be more thoughtful (of course I’m not speaking of myself here) so it has more heft and care.

    I’ve had email since BBS days so I’ve been saying, “Email is the best way to get in touch with me” forever. I answer the phone at work so hardly do in my personal life. People are shocked I don’t have a cellphone. I have many real world friends and they all know if they need to talk to me do it before I’m out of work.

    Or send me an email.

    My best real world friends (these are people I’d see every day or at least a few times a week) I see one every week, one every month, and one every once in a while. I get email from them every friggin’ day. So, as you can see, even real world friendships know email is the best way to interact.

    Because no one can see you roll your eyes!

    The thing about those real world friends, as close as we are, is I doubt we’d have become virtual friends. We’re that different. We have few of the same interests. That’s one of the things virtual friends have going for them. Shared, intense interests. That’s a bond it takes real world friends years to accomplish.

    An excellent point. Especially when your interests are, shall we say, fucked in the head. That’s what the internet is for, huh? 😀

  7. I think a lot of it, especially with the written word, is that is takes a lot of “listening”…or “reading” in these situations. When we really take the time to get to know someone, we can see them as real people with all of their natural barriers down…good or bad.

    You are on the good team…or an axe murder…I am “on the fence” on that one! There can be a fine line.

    If I end up “on the roof”, the TB clan get a free pass.

    Whew, I can scratch that one off my worry list.

    As for which team I’m on…can’t I be like Dexter, and be an axe murderer and still on the “good team?”

  8. […] friend Michael is one of those.  We haven’t seen him since he made a whirlwind on-a-whim trip out this way […]

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