Saturday, March 14, 2009

WTF Are Internet Friends?

Diesel Bodine wants to know about the difference between "real friends" and internet friends. His main focus is on the expectations - how online we "present" to each other through videos, but off-line we converse without notes. I see that more as a quirk of the medium than a measure of the depth of a friendship.

See, I don't see much difference between online or offline friendships. We have "friends" at work, or in our neighborhood, that are only friends because of a situation, an accident of place or time, and when you move, or change jobs, you never see them again. And then there are your real friends you keep forever. The Internet just puts that process under a microscope, and maybe speed it all up, but it's really not all that different.

There are friends we expect to come visit us when we're sick, and there are friends who we expect nothing more than to be sitting on a particular bar stool when we meet at the neighborhood pub. There are people you dearly love and care for, but if you have to put up with their crap today you'll end up killing them. There are people you expect to stay and help wash the dishes, and there are people who constantly surprise you with what they do - or do not - do for you.

Friendships online can be just as real as all that, and it has nothing to do with clicking a "friend" button. There are people online that I've had to my house, or that I've been to their house. There are people I've traveled some to see and be with. There are people I consider my brothers. And there are people who if they vanished tomorrow I'd barely notice the difference.

But that's not so different than "real life." Real life friends change interests, drift away, whether by boredom or a change in their situation. Somebody got a different job, a new house, got married, had a kid, joined a different gym, whatever, and we don't see them so much anymore.

You run into them 18 months later at the 7-Eleven and it's really awkward as you stand there, shuffling your feet, until one of you says, "Well, I'll call you, okay?" and the other replies, "We'll grab lunch at that place we used to go" and you both know neither of you ever will.

And then there are the friends who've moved half-way across the country and you only speak to on the phone once every few months, but when you do get together every couple of years, it's four days of nonstop conversation and laughs and not a beat is missed in knowing you're still on the same wavelength, and they'll always know you better than you know yourself, and your wives think you're each crazy, but it's okay 'cause you're with your friend.

It's kind of like that.

(Originally posted at during my break from blogging here.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Twitter Feed