Since Thanksgiving I’ve had the joy of connecting with three internet people, who are now my flesh friends. Friends in IRL, you say? That’s too twee for me. You say FLESH FRIEND sounds pornographic? I do not know what you are talking about. Friends in the flesh, you recommend? Who has time for those two extra words. Not me. I am extremely busy.
Two I’ve hung out with soooo many times, like several in as many years, so we’ve been flesh friends forever, but one was a new flesh friend, and it was such a joy to get to spend time with her. I was all giddy and tearful, and she did not disappoint. Strong, beautiful, thoughtful, funny, amazing skin.
Another of them, Steph (blog currently shuttered, so I won’t send you there), gave me a gift that that filled an empty spot in my heart.
My family is complete!
It’s bizarre to see someone for the first or second time but to have such a high degree of intimacy. And what’s most bizarre to me is how easy it is.
Since I starting writing here, I’ve wondered a lot about online friendships. As a hard core introvert, I don’t have many friends, and I think I’m at an all time low right now. My refusal to be on Facebook means I’ve pretty much lost touch with three of my five old friends. But in the meantime, I’ve made connections through this web journaly business that feel strong and real.
Naturally, this makes me suspicious, because I am always on the hunt for things I’m doing TERRIBLY WRONG. For example, am I trying to replace real life friendships with all their history and complications (cf. BFB) with easy, new friendships? Further, my internet friendships have mostly been made in the context of support surrounding infertility, and as a result, they tend to start at intimacy level 100. As compared to the normal intimacy level 0 that I start with when I talk to some lady at the library. Does that heightened emotion lead to deceptively real relationships? What about the anonymity of my internet world? Does it lead to a false sense of trust, an overly positive presentation of self? (Well, obviously yes to that last one. Internet me is SO COOL.)
The Frightening Vision is: I die all alone in the middle of writing a post like this. My dead body is only discovered after a few weeks because I have no-one left in the real world who cares about me. I have devoted all my energy to forming relationships with people on the internet, and it turns out these relationships are totally false. I am found sprawled over a laptop and my face has been eaten by cats. (I don’t have cats. I guess they just FIND ME.)
Then there’s another version of reality in which the concept of friend has just changed and all of this is normal and even good.
I know the latter reality is more plausible, because how would the cats even get into the house? And also because I know the friendships with my flesh friends are real. But being a social scientist, I like to check my intuitions against whatever research is available. So that’s why I’m going to write about next time. My goals are to answer, for myself only, the following questions:
1. Are online friendships an unhealthy substitute for offline friendships, particularly for introverts?
2. Are online friendships inherently different from offline ones?
3. Am I just avoiding the work of strengthening my old friendships by forming new ones in a forum where it’s easier to meet people?
4. Whatever else arises as I think about the previous questions.