Being a long-standing, card-carrying member of the "blogosphere," I often find myself pondering the state of modern-day relationships in this virtual internet age.
What does it mean to be friends with someone you only know through blogging? Are facebook friends really friends? Does knowing the details of a person's life via twitter constitute anything meaningful?
The writer Chuck Klosterman once wrote that he had 43 close friends, 196 good friends and 2,200 affable acquaintances. Close friends were people that he would phone immediately if he was diagnosed with lung cancer; good friends were people whose death from lung cancer would make him profoundly sad; and affable acquaintances were people whom he generally liked and hoped would recover from lung cancer.
He wrote that statement back in 2002, a time not so far in the distant past but one that predated the explosion of personal blogging, the proliferation of Facebook as a social network for adults, and the introduction of sites like twitter or tumblr that allow you to follow someone's immediate thoughts and activities in real time. I often wonder how the number of Klosterman's defined relationships has changed just in the past 6 years.
Living in New York, I've had the opportunity to meet not only many other fellow bloggers but also several people who simply know me from being a reader of this blog. At first, I was concerned that people's on-line personalities would prove to be far different from reality. After all, it's impossible to convey the complex entirety of one's self solely by the written word. And isn't there a human tendency to shape one's image so that we may appear more interesting (or attractive, funny, or smart) as possible?
However, after meeting so many people in the "real world" that I previously only knew in the virtual one, I have to admit that I've been amazingly surprised. Without fail, I've found that you really can get to know someone closely through the internet and that the people that you think you would like, you almost always do.
Not only have I formed close relationships with people that I previously only knew online but I've also come to realize that I have quite a few great relationships with friends that I haven't even met in person...yet. These are people that I truly care about and whose lives I am fully invested.
Now admittedly, I'm a "people person." I've never wanted to befriend people who are just like me. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I like having relationships with people who couldn't be more different from me. I enjoy being taken out of my comfort zone and I'm a firm believer that any two strangers on the planet, given enough time, can find a common ground that unites them far more than it divides them.
Being a parent is one of those universal common grounds.
I bring all of this up because I recently discovered a new parenting blog called The Wind in Your Vagina that I absolutely love. The writer is a father of two children and refers to himself online as "Black Hockey Jesus" (aka BHJ.) His writing is refreshingly smart, hilarious, and caring. He has the kind of writing talent that makes me drool with envy but I don't begrudge him a single iota because he's a uniquely iconoclastic character who is constantly barraging me with effusive complimentary e-mails. He's on a one-man mission to singlehandedly take over the internet and I have voluntarily agreed to help him in any way possible. I'm the Robin to his Batman, the Kelly to his Regis, the Porky Pig to his Daffy Duck, the Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote, the Ivory to his Ebony, and...well, you get the fucking idea. Together, we're going to make him a male version of Dooce.
Anyway, BHJ is on vacation this week so he asked me to write a guest post. I don't normally do guest posts because I barely have time to write on this blog. However, in exchange, he's promised that if I ever need to be bailed out of jail, he'll be there for me. No questions asked. He's also promised not to release that photo of me in cutoff denim shorts. How could I say no?
Meanwhile, I'm curious to know what YOU think about virtual vs. real world relationships. Do you have close relationships with people whom you only know online? What have your experiences been like? What are your thoughts about the changing nature of relationships in the internet age?
An inquiring mind wants to know.