Back when I used to watch the Young and the Restless (yes, I did, for years!), I participated on a Y&R discussion board that also had an off-topic board attached to it, where you could talk about stuff like politics and the Iraq war and religion and abortion and all kinds of fun controversial flame-war type topics. This came in handy when you got tired of arguing about who was the bigger slut, Sharon or Phyllis.
If you’ve ever been part of a long-time online community, you know how they work. There are power struggles and politics and coups. This group was no different. Eventually the core users defected and I went with them because they were my online community. The virtual space we inhabited together was not a particular discussion board on a particular server – it was these particular personalities. It was these people.
We’ve been together, in one incarnation or another, for about ten years now. Most of us have never met, since we’re geographically diverse. We just talk online every day about the mundane, the political, and the life-altering things in our lives.
Online friendships and communities feel real to me. These are real people, and they’re real friends. And as an added bonus for an introvert, online communities allow me to meet most of my social needs from a comfortable distance.
Even my relationships with friends and family members are primarily virtual these days.
As a matter of fact, if it weren’t for GC and Duncan, I’d never see anybody. Okay that’s not true. I did have a lunch engagement yesterday (I got stood up!) and I do get together with people in real life at least once or twice a week.
Then there are my blogging friends, many of whom I have met, and like, and get together with occasionally. But our relationships, too, take place primarily on the virtual plane, with them reading my blog and me reading their blogs.
A regular reader of this blog – the penultimate Quiet Reader – emailed me one day to say hello. And she said something that comes back to me often.
“Don’t you find that the blogosphere is a little like driving at night – you look in windows and see all sorts of warm, loving ‘families’ sitting at the dining room table or playing cards or watching hockey or eating chips and salsa?”
And it’s true, isn’t it? Little glimpses into each others lives, little fragments of life playing out in front of uncurtained windows. That’s what blogging is all about.
I find the imagery charming, but it occurs to me that between blogging, discussion groups, facebook, twitter and email, the vast majority of my social interactions are virtual.
Is it just me, or is that just how it is now for everybody? Do you think it’s okay? Or are we losing something because of it?