Virtual Relationships and Imaginary Friends . . .

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I am in my 10th year of active participation on the internet. It has been an amazing journey from a time when just a few folks knew enough to find bulletin boards and Yahoo Groups based on their interests, and join them in search of new information and other people who shared their passions. And now we live in a virtual world in a time of social networking which has everybody connecting to everybody for reasons known and unknown.

I have had some interesting conversations lately which have gotten me thinking about this new society and what it means to the quality of our lives. I know that is a HUGE topic and I can only nibble at it, but it is a fascinating topic nonetheless.

Remember all the old novels about folks who were thrown unceremoniously into new levels of society which they knew nothing about – the servant girl who marries the rich guy, etc.

Everything was a mystery – from which fork to use or hat to wear, to just how something should be phrased, so as not to offend.

Well, it seems to me that our whole society has married into an alien one in which all of the rules of behavior are just being written as we go.

Remember when all capital letters was determined to be yelling, and “flaming” was a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs? Netiquette rules have been written as things came up, and now we are dealing with whether semi-porno photos should be tweeted to school girls.

But a steady trend through all of this has been the development of online relationships – with people we probably would never have met in the course of our daily lives.

My Mom and I were talking about my childhood a couple weeks ago, and I was surprised to learn I had an imaginary friend (Dear Me! came along much later). My Mom didn’t know her name but I talked to her all the time, and I evidently though she talked back.

It’s  sort of like now, Mom said. Now you have a couple thousand imaginary friends!

She was talking about you of course.

And one of you imaginary friends asked me the other day what sort of people my readers and customers are. “Wonderful people,” I replied, and that is certainly true, although I have actually met only a fraction of you in person, and a few more by phone, I just know it’s true. I haven’t met any of you yet that I wouldn’t choose to hang out with if geography allowed, and a few of you have become very treasured friends. That’s pretty darned amazing when you think about it.

And I wonder how much of this comraderie is because we have such common interests, and we know that because we are hanging out online together. It seems as though translating these online friendships into real world relationships is an easy road.

But, what about the other way around? With the ubiquitous Facebook, anybody you have ever known can find you. That has happened to me a lot, and I find a certain trend interesting. Someone is excited to make contact. You exchange a few lines to catch up for the last forty years (grin), and then that is pretty much it. Everybody goes back to their lives. Truth is, if you had had enough of a connection way back then, you would have made the effort to stay in touch. Coming together at this point usually does not render enough talking points to get a good conversation going, let alone a renaissance of the relationship.

So you wonder what is actually going on between all these folks and their lists of “friends” on Facebook. From what I can see, it seems that the virtual friendships are based on real world relationships between relatives and friends who already have a common bond, and who are keeping up with each other as we may have done by phone years ago. Again, relationships based on having something in common.

And online friendships can drift away as well. The great drawing at the top of this post was created by a friend I met  online years ago. I did get to visit her home and really enjoyed meeting her in person as well. We kept in touch for years and now, I can’t find her at all. Her name is Angie Black and she is a wonderful artist. Are you out there, Angie?

This just has to be one of the most interesting of times, doesn’t it?

What do you think about it all? Do you have any good stories about virtual relationships or imaginary friends?

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