Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 20

What exactly is it about online friendships?

Is it because you can edit what you say before hitting that Send button? You can be as smart and witty as you want to be, because you have a moment to think before you speak – er, send.

Is it because you rarely meet the person in real life, so the mystery is always maintained, no matter how close you grow?

For example, I adore Suse. We email. We snail mail each other things. We have Skyped, and I have seen her and heard her voice. But I have never, much to my regret, sat next to her at a coffee shop and watched her stir 6 sugars into her coffee or harangue the barista because there's not enough foam on her latte. (I am not saying Suse does that; just that she could and I would never know. Perhaps I should have picked a more hypothetical example.) I have no idea if the fact that I pick my cuticles or constantly run my hands through my hair or curse at old people driving too slowly in giant cars would drive her round the bend, and there is a very good chance that we will never spend quite long enough together to find out.

When I met up with Blackbird, lo, eons ago, we had a mere weekend to catch up and cram in everything we wanted to say; perhaps if we were next door neighbors, that intensity and feeling of, I dunno, being almost in love - you know, like a girl crush - I wanted Blackbird to see only the funniest, smartest bits of me - would dissipate. Of course it must. My next door neighbor, whom I happen to like very, very much, has heard me scream at my kids, and watched me retrieve my paper in ratty old pajamas and unwashed hair, and puts up with having to look at my toy-scattered front yard on a regular basis. And we are still good friends. But the magic, as it were, has long since gone.

Which isn’t to say that Suse and Blackbird don’t know the REAL me; they maybe just know the BEST of me, because I have the luxury of editing myself.

I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.

I still have friends “in real life;” dear friends to whom I can talk in person and with whom I lounge around and drink and knit and eat burgers. I could not live without them. But often the stupid things that flit through my brain are voiced before I stop myself; I reveal things in ways I wish later I hadn’t. And if I get a bad haircut or have a big zit on my chin, there’s no hiding it. There is no editing “in real life.”

Here’s another interesting thought: I interact mostly online even with one of my closest friends in real life. Gina lives four miles away from me, but we often won’t see each other for weeks on end. But we email and text and call…so is it the case that were this means of communication not available that we would slowly cease to be friends? In this case, I think not – Gina and I have been friends from before the crazy burgeoning of online communication. It does mean I can chat with her during the day as often as I like, at each other’s convenience. And I think that may be one of the keys to the success of online relationships – they are indeed conducted at one’s convenience. As someone who curses every time the phone rings, this is a huge advantage.

(Although I will point out, re: that perceived convenience, that Gina and I may be unique in that, if we have plans, neither of us considers it remotely rude or odd to say, “I don’t feel like going out in the cold tonight, and I’m achy and just want to go to bed.” There is never any recrimination or sulking or anything; it is a true luxury to have a friend one can blow off without repercussions or guilt.)

Via the Internet I have met many lovely people whom I am proud to consider friends, whom I may never meet in real life, and who, honestly, may come and go from within our loose circle of acquaintances. But this doesn’t make them any less “true” friends.

What do you think?

NOTE: NO names have been changed in the writing of this blog post. I reiterate, Suse may very well only take FIVE sugars in her coffee.

11 comments:

sueeeus said...

Oh Darling! Suse doesn't drink coffee! Too caffeine sensitive. And only a very modest amount of sugar in her tea. And hopefully you will have the pleasure of spending time with her face to face some day. She is fantastic and non-judgmental, you silly thing!!! And she just might curse at other drivers as well. You'd NEVER in real life have the need to edit anything when in her presence. She's absolutely 100% genuine. I hope you DO get to meet some day. :)

(I'm biased - we met a hundred million years ago when we were but youngsters...)

I consider my online friends true as well. In the life I lead, you are often the only friends I can have contact with. I treasure it.

carlos de la parra said...

Online friendship is of different standards because you lack the need to suffer anything you may dislike in a real person;their smell,complexion ,attitudes or anything else.It all boils down to a conversational an opinional relationship.Which contains it's own values.

blackbird said...

It's me with the sugars. In my DECAF.

Suse said...

Tea. White. One sugar.

I don't harangue baristas, I smile sweetly at them and ask them for what I need. Slightly apologetically.

I love you, you know.

Suse said...

I do, however, tell other drivers to fuck off on a regular basis.

Mary said...

About being the only one who answers the phone.. I remember growing up that all of us would sprint for the phone as it was the main means of communication other than for face to face ..now the kids have facebook etc a phone call does not have the same meaning...

I have found my online friendships to be every bit as meaningful as the real life ones (penpals used to say the same thing back in the day - well, you know what i mean)..

and helped me get through a noxious couple of years in a way many of my real life friends could not!

Sarah Louise said...

All friendships have bumps. If the chemistry is good, online or face to face, the friendship will be a lift.

But bad chemistry happens face to face and online too. It's just that when bad chemistry happens online, it's easier to step away and not step back in.

And yet...there are no easy answers.

xo,
SL

Penni said...

I was saying to Suse just the other day in her kitchen that I mostly follow Australian blogs. You are an exception to that rule - it is because you are so likable and honest. But I think I like that sense of connectivity about local blogs, the possibility that you could bump into each other in the library and recognise each other (this has happened to me). To me the natural development of an online friendship is to meet in real life or at least to pretend to oneself it will happen one day.

Suse's kitchen would look good on you.

Badger said...

Dude, all I know is that online friendships are infinitely easier to maintain, particularly if one communicates better in writing than by any other method. I mean you can edit what you say, yes, but I personally am a bit braver about revealing things in writing than I am in person. This is partially due to the fact that I cry when I'm angry, ugh.

And you know, if I think about all the people I count as friends TODAY, at least 80% of the ones with whom I've been friends the longest are online friends. Or they started out that way, anyhoo.

Elizabeth said...

The great thing about meeting people online is the cut-to-the-chase in regard to common interests There is an immediate common bond. I have had friendships with neighbours but they don't really 'get' me. The people we are most suited to could live on the same street and we may never know them but we know instantly if we would like someone through what they share on their blog.

Btw, tea, milk, one sugar and you can visit anytime.

Cat (SoFla Mom) said...

I cannot imagine you cursing at old people or screaming at your kids. Something about you seems so calm and serene. At least that's how I see you "online."

I can't seem to make friends online or in person. Either I am that bad or my blog is, blah :P