Monday, November 17, 2008

Norm speaks the truth on online friends

Norm is a wise man on many topics, not least in this brief but astute comment about online/real-life friendships:
[what about:] how you can make friends on the internet with people you otherwise would not have met; how you can then consolidate and extend these friendships offline; how, even if you don't (because of distance, say), having electronic friends can be a rewarding experience in itself; how old (real-world) friends who live far apart can now be in touch with one another with much greater facility and regularity than formerly; how, the internet being (when all is said and done) part of the real world, friends can also cease to be friends because of what happens there; and how anyone whose friendships are wholly confined to the internet probably has problems aside from an addiction to their computer.
Of course you do have to factor in that he was taking Roger Scruton to task for pointing out that online friendships differ to real-life ones in somewhat simplistic terms (finding fault with Scruton: fish, barrel). Even so Norm offers some wise distinctions and complications of the argument.

I'd certainly back up most, if not all, of these:
1) I've made friends with people all over the world whom I almost certainly would never have gotten chance to meet otherwise;

2) through blogmeets and just general encounters (especially with local bloggers) I've gotten to know some smashing people;

3) some of the people I know online I only know online - but through blogs, forums, emails and chats I can exchange thoughts and views on a whole range of life, the universe and everything topics;

4) the same works too for some of my more distant real-life friends -- without the internet I doubt I would have been able to sustain contact with Rita or Chrissie even though I do speak to each by phone (and yes, Chrissie, I know we keep talking about Skype!);

5) I've certainly made and subsequently lost friends through online contact - there is something raw in words on the page, written with an immediacy that may remove tone and gesture - but that isn't to say that I haven't screwed up real-life friendships too;

6) and I would (broadly) concur that to only have online friends may be indicative of bigger issues (with the proviso that for some, perhaps those unable to interact as easily with the physical/real-world through disability for example, an online life may be far more productive as a source of friendship. Arguably, that too is suggestive of bigger issues, though not necessarily 'problems' as Norm phrases this).

How do you feel about your online/real-life friendships and their similaries and differences? Is it different if you're on Facebook, rather than writing blogs?


Jane Henry said...

Ooh interesting one, Lisa. Well I'd be lying through my teeth if I didn't say I hadn't "met" some great people online like your good self who I know very well I will get on real life when we do get round to meeting (which we will one of these days). I think there is a degree of intimacy you can reach with your online friends very quickly because you are stripped of the nuances you have face to face, so can't play that game of a slow reveal as you would in real life. That being said of course, the downside to that is nuances can be helpful and sometimes its easy to be too honest online (and also of course people can lie through their teeth). But I do think it is nigh on impossible not to give something of your real self when communicating just through the written word, and it has been my experience that people I have instinctively warmed to online have become friends when I met them in the flesh. Equally people that got my back up and gave me the creeps have done the same when I've met them in the real world (thankfully that hasn't happened to me yet).

Online friendships are things you should be careful of, but I value mine hugely because I don't go out to work anymore and have very little contact with adults during the day. My online buddies keep me sane, and hurrah for that.

I also think if you are housebound it must be a wonderful way of communicating with the world. We had someone like that on an egroup we were on, and when she died rather unexpectedly of a heart attack we were all devastated. We clubbed together to buy flowers (and I think we may have planted a tree) - which I think her husband was very touched by. I was amazed about how much of a loss I felt for someone I had never actually met.And I like to think we gave her a window on the world.

Marie said...

Exactly. Just because David Tennant and I have never "met" in the "real" world does not make our love any less genuine. I mean, obviously, eventually I would like him to participate in the relationship as well, but this, I am reliably informed, is what is known as being "too picky".

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

I almost lay a bet with myself on you saying that Marie! I really should have!

Anonymous said...

My real-world friends live at some distance and we rarely meet. Apart from the students who comment on my work-related blog, most of the people I interact with online I've never actually met. I'm sure I'm only getting tiny fraction of the full picture, but it still fairly satisfying. I don't comment much, but all the blogs I read regularly because I like the tone of the person behind the blog.

It's taken me a while on Facebook to build up enough contacts to see an evolving picture. I think there's an optimum number of friends on Facebook, at which point the occasional updates start to weave.

As with most walks of life, I'm unclear on the etiquette of most of this stuff, and just hope I don't go around offending too may people.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Mr Bob I can heartily assure you that you've always been fine as far as I can tell - sure, there will always be people who take offense or get upset by stuff, but - your page, your opinions. No one is forced to read it. I'm unclear on etiquette too - plus, meh, not my biggest thing. Having said that I generally strive to keep things manageable and on good terms. I wish I could say I didn't care what people think. Truth is that I do though.

And Facebook: bah - I just can't really get the hang of it. I don't use it consistently enough to really make it work and only keep it so I can contact a few specific peeps who don't run blogs/anymore.

SwissToni said...

I've made lots of friends through the internet, particularly through blogging. Some I have met and they are lovely people, some I have not met and they still seem like lovely people. I was also dumped by my oldest friend, who I had known since the age of 7, some 20-odd years, via an email. I had no right of reply and I haven't spoken to him since. I've heard he regrets his actions, but feels unable to swallow his pride and do anything about it. That makes me sad. He hurt me really badly and it still stings like mad.

Friendship is precious, however you meet that friend, and however you maintain that friendship.....

SwissToni said...

(and I too am a facebook refusenik, although the friend who dumped me is a really keen user, apparently. I've always thought it odd how he makes such a big deal about maintaining that kind of relationship, but couldn't find it in himself to work on ours)

Jane Henry said...

swisstoni - eek I have a similar experience to you having lost a friendship of twenty years as a result of an email.Am still reeling too and have no recourse either. Go figure as the yanks say.

Facebook is for the young I think. I'm there for purely promotional purposes but I can't see how you can be "friends" with 200 people you've never met and don't have any interaction with other then throwing things at each other or having pillow fights. But my 24 year old niece seems to love it...