My husband is not the most social creature on the planet. Oh he’s nice and polite and people love him. But left to his own devices he would watch a lot of baseball, football, basketball (do you see a theme developing here) and see a lot less of people. I am the social butterfly in our relationship. All of our friends were my friends that became his friends. In the 16 years we have been together not one set of our friends has started with him.
Now don’t get me wrong, he has friends, even a few friends that have nothing to do with me. It’s just they all date to kindergarten and often involve stories that start with eating paste. So often he smiles indulgently when I talk about this friend or that friend. He rarely questions how I meet people because I meet so many people for work. But every so often, usually when he hears a name too frequently, he will stop, give me “the look” and ask “How do you know this person?”
For years the answer was generally work or at a conference or through tennis or charities that I work with. Lately, however, the answer has been online. After the third or fourth time this happened he looked at me oddly and asked “So you haven’t actually met this person?” My answer was simple, not in person but I know them. Again, I got the look and a declaration, “Online friendships aren’t real.” He says this with all seriousness as if it is a pronouncement from on high.
At the time, I ignored him and went my merry way. However, as often happens with me, several days later my internal DVR rewound the question and I reflected on it. Are online friends real? Could he be right (perish the thought)? Are these connections I have made online somehow false? I put the thought away, filed in my mind under “conversations with myself for another day.”
For several weeks those questions stayed safely tucked in that internal file cabinet. Then one day while out for my morning run my brain, in it’s infinite wisdom, decided to have a conversation with itself. Today’s topic: are online friends real? This is sort of how it went:
What about all of those people you chat with on twitter? You know the ones you share inappropriate crushes with that your IRL friends wouldn’t quite understand. Are they friends?
Well those are twitter friends, it’s a public forum I don’t really know all that much about them. And I don’t put personal details on twitter. I don’t put the kidlet on there or the current legal spouse’s name. And that says something because CLSs name would go over big on twitter. So I guess they fall under the category acquaintances.
What about the ones you connected with on Facebook?
Well those are ones that are closer to the inner circle. I might like to go to dinner with those people if we lived in the same town, maybe have a drink or two, ok maybe 10.
Really, so what about the one’s you PM with or the ones who have your mobile number and you text with or even chat with?
Well maybe they are friend friends, so I guess they fall under a different category.
And what about those that you chat with everyday, all day?
Hey, whose side are you on anyway?
I’m your brain so I guess I’m on your side.
The conversation continued for a bit longer and here is where my brain and I ended. Online friendships are real. In an ever changing world that gets smaller even as I type this, the way we define friends and friendship is constantly evolving.
I am blessed to have people in my life that I have known since birth. Friends that I have made at every stage of my life. But lately, I am even more blessed to have made rewarding and enriching connections with people online. Those friendships started from a random tweet while at a play in London, from a mutual love of a certain dark haired actor (who shall remain nameless) to a love of running (OK not so much love for me but a necessity). But regardless of how they started, these friendships make me laugh out loud (daily most times), make me cry, make me think, make me feel every range of emotion known to man. We celebrate each other’s small victories, bust our metaphorical balls when we do something truly stupid, share our stories, encourage and lift each other up. How is that not friendship?
While I acknowledge the whimsical nature of online friendships, I am equally certain that one or two (maybe even three or four) of these ladies will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I won’t call them out because they know who they are. Eventually I will meet them IRL. If I’m lucky they won’t be serial killers. If I’m really lucky they will be even more spectacular in person. Fingers crossed!