Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Thursday, January 7, 2010

On Facebook, they have these memes circulating, where you ask your friends to describe you in one word, or tell a memory they have about you. I usually avoid the memes because they feel faintly narcissistic (can't believe I spelled that right on the first try)--not when others do them, but for me, yeah. I'm always harder on myself than I am on others. Anyway, last night I did one that seemed fairly harmless: How did we meet? I am saddened by how little I remember, and amazed by how much others do. It was a fun exercise.

I realized that I have three main time periods in my circle of everyday buddies, and those are high school, college and blog, i.e. the past 3-4 years. There's a biiiiig, empty space between college and blog. It's not that I was completely isolated, I worked during most of that time, but the demands of family life kept me from creating a lasting bond, I suppose. It's hard to make friends when you can't just hang out and have fun.

That's why I hate it when people dismiss online relationships out of hand, or even ridicule them as pathetic. When online communication started years ago, it was generally accepted that relationships online were pretty much meaningless. After all, you're not really talking and interacting with a human, just words on a screen. I've found, though--and I think a lot of other people have, too--that the interactions we have with each other online can be just as meaningful as real life friendships. Is it healthy for online connections to replace real-life ones? Probably not. But can they be a supplement, enriching your life in countless ways? Indubitably. (That word took three tries.) No matter how cynics enjoy reducing solely-Internet friendships to their electrons, there is a human being sending his or her intentions to you. The method in which you receive those intentions doesn't matter much.

Granted, it's harder to know what those intentions are without body language and inflection, but it's like having a hundred pen pals. And for someone like me, with limited opportunities to interact face-to-face with people who share my interests, this has worked pretty well. Don't you agree?

{ 9 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I'm absolutely happy that I have so many online friends. They outweigh my nonline friends by far, and my life is far richer than if I had never met any of them (including you, Sherri). I hope to meet all of them in person some day, if only to get to hug and shake hands for realz.

  2. Yeah what Ian said! Exactly right, both of you.

    I would add that as a deaf person, visual communication is the only way I ever really felt connected to anyone.

    Community is in my hands and eyes, not my mouth or ears.

  3. I agree, narcissistic or not, and indubitably. ;) (Got 'em both right on the first try, just so ya know. But that "right" just in the last sentence? ... four tries. FOUR.)

  4. If your only realtionships were on-line, it might be a little sad. But I think of my on-line relationships as a wonderful addition to my life. And I've noticed people of my kids' generations just take on-line relationships as a natural part of life - they meet and keep in touch that way - what's wrong with that?

  5. Indubitably! I totally agree with what you're saying here, and I have to tell you, I feel closer to you than I do to some people I've known in real life. There's a reason I call you my lil sis, and I don't say that lightly. *hugs*

  6. Rachel- my sister and brother, besides living far from me, are both deaf. The Internet changed their lives and also greatly improved our relationship with each other, since my ASL is awful!

  7. I have to agree that it is simply another avenue of communication. It is more limited than in person but most tend to be candid sooner. In any realm the trick is realizing that people temper things with their own expectations. I have expectations of wonderful friendships and find that to happen most the time. Here's to forging another new friendship!

  8. I have to agree that online friendships indeed have meaning. I think that they aren't the same as face-to-face relationships because we only see one aspect of the person; but I have made great friends from a couple of online pals I met in online classes, including meeting one of them in person. And I have a number of blog pals whom I consider my friend and whom I hope to meet some day. Some of them had a writerly get together in the UK last year, and I wish I had been able to attend!

    But I really strongly believe that we should have face-to-face relationships, too.

  9. I met several great online people--you for instance! I don't see why they should be any less valid. As if real life people can't hurt/disappoint/make us feel pathetic. But the internet hasn't narrowed my life. It has broadened it.

    I know a fellow in real life who uses the internet for, let's say, physical reasons even though he's married. That is pathetic.


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