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Monday, November 8, 2010

Are Online Relationships Real?

Teenage Girl Using Laptop

Remember when you were a kid, and you had imaginary friends?  Remember when grown-ups thought you were crazy?

That’s how I feel sometimes as a blogger.

Last week, I was speaking to a group of intelligent women, trying to explain some of the intangible benefits of my writing.

“The most incredible part of blogging is some of the new friends I’ve met.”

I went on to explain. “I consider many other bloggers dear friends.  Some of these friends encourage me on a daily basis.”

I noticed a few blank stares in the audience.

They must think I’m crazy.  Maybe I am!

After all, a year ago, I would have told me I was crazy.  You can’t have real relationships online, can you?  Relationships where people don’t actually meet in person.  Where people hide behind computer screens (where they can conveniently hide their faults and annoying personalities).

Other bloggers don’t smell.  They don’t show up at my doorstep unexpected.  They don’t put demands on my time.  They don’t ask me to help with carpool duty or bake cookies for the Election Day bake sale (yeah, I forgot to sign up again this year).

How can a relationship be real when it is completely on my terms?  When I’m the one in control? When it doesn’t involve sacrifice?

Maybe online relationships are imaginary after all.  After all, I can just turn them off with a power button.

But wait a minute.  Smelly or not, my online friendships have stretched me, that's for sure.  No one is pointing a gun to my head, yet I’m pushing myself to read other blogs, write encouraging comments, and even meet deadlines.  I’m not just pushing myself to write, I’m pushing myself to connect.  And while I probably started blogging in search of fans, the wonderful truth is that I’ve found some friends instead. 

And friends are worth it.  Online or not.


Wendy Paine Miller said...

Yep, me too. I count you one of them.

And I smell great (Daisy perfume). :D

My MIL made fun of me last summer for calling Jody Hedlund a friend. She is a friend though. She's taught me and walked alongside me. There are online friendships I consider very dear.

I've thought a lot about this b/c I initially found it strange I was making such close friends online. It was awesome to meet many of them.

~ Wendy

Unpolished Parenting said...

I definitely think of people I've met online as my close friends. It's not your typical friendship but we are all prooving that it's not that abnormal either (even though to say it out loud to someone who doesn't blog or get it, does sound weird).

These friendships that we build here are way more open and honest than some real life friendships. Because we are truly opening up and making ourselves vulnerable to each other. You know way more about me than lots of my real life friends do :) And thats ok!

Charming's Mama said...

Hey, thanks for this, I have struggled with the same thing. I started blogging because I wanted it to be a virtual scrapbook, (since I am so lousy at real scrap booking) so I was doing it for me, the added benefit has been the friends I have made. I find that I look forward to the comments I get when I have posted something, it is always more meaningful, when that comment has come from one of my online "friends".

Marcus Goodyear said...

I confess the smell thing makes me nervous. Advantage one for online friendships.

I like what Charles Lee says about this. Christians don't question whether we have a relationship with God--yet that is largely intangible. No one questions whether our spirit carries through the mail in a handwritten letter.

Is it better to meet in person and have a meal together? Of course! In the meantime, I'd have no chance to get to know people like you.

Laura said...

I could have written these words: "I’m not just pushing myself to write, I’m pushing myself to connect. And while I probably started blogging in search of fans, the wonderful truth is that I’ve found some friends instead."

So true!

Heidiopia said...

So true, Susan! I've met/connected with so many online friends this past year and I love it! Even if it's a virtual community, it's still a community-- and one in which I feel right at home.
Enjoy your day!

Amy Sullivan said...

I've wondered this before. I wondered this just last week. What if I pulled the plug on the whole blogging gig, and just stopped (Ok, so it wasn't a terrific week!)

What would my online friends do? Would they email? Would they ask? Would they wonder what happened to me if I slipped back into my quiet, nonbloggy life again?

I think a few just might.

Amy DeTrempe said...

I was surprised too, to make "friends" blogging. And, they become so much more real when you meet them face to face for the first time at a conference. Nothing beats it because even though you are seeing them for the first time, they are far from being a stranger.

Ang said...

Folks tend to be afraid of the unknown, so if they are not involved in blogging or other "synthetic" environments, it probably does sound odd that we claim to have friendships with people we've never met in "real life."

The connection in our "real" relationships is on a heart-to-heart level, so I would argue that people can form legit friendships in virtual settings, even though they've never had face-to-face conversations together. I'm blessed to have a few, as well.

Amanda said...

So true! I love my online friendships. In fact, I've been part of a message board for pastor's wives for years and have formed some pretty close friendships with women I've never met. My online friends definitely broaden my horizons, even if some people think I'm a little crazy.

Nicole Unice said...

I think there are so many shades & seasons in a woman's life...reaching out online can help me find those couple of women who really "get" what I'm going through, be it writing, working, ministry, or whatever. To know that you aren't alone in whatever that thing is that you are trying to do is huge for me.

Here's the disadvantage: it can be easy to use these "friends" when you want to avoid being too real with in-person friends. So I might tell my online friends something I'd rather not tell my in-person friends. And I wonder if that's keeping me as real as can be. Does that make sense?

David Rupert said...

I think we put far too much stock in online relationships, but i recently lost a love, had my dad die, and my dog passed away and I was surrounded by people far away that cared.

So, I think we need both!

Marla Taviano said...

Did I tell you my next book project is about all of this? ;) I just may have to quote you.

BigD said...

I struggle with this one.
I think the definition of the term "friend" has really changed with our cyber reality. I keep insisting that we need another word. Acquaintance doesn't go far enough, yet friend goes too far.

I haven't been dwelling in the blogosphere very long, so maybe my attitude will change over time.

Right now, I still prefer relationships that involve chocolate, not a keyboard.

mama2blog said...

This post is an encouragement to me! Since I'm very new to blogging-it's great to know you can make connections with complete strangers and develop friendships.

Cheryl Smith said...

Yes, very real. It's funny how reading someone's posts over a period of time give you a sense of who they are, what's important to them. For example, when I take my morning walk/run, I often think of people I've "met" through blogging who run/walk/hike. Just one simple example of a very "real" oddity. :)

Julia said...

what a great post Susan. it's funny how many of my "friends" now are bloggers. and i wouldn't have it any other way!!

p.s. giving away your book on wednesday