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I'm a Minnesota Girl, living in the south. I tell my friends I try not to talk and think like a Yankee, but sometimes I slip up!

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Imaginary Friends".... Indeed

Note: Thanks to Kelly for the group picture.

The husband of a friend of mine calls them "Imaginary Friends". (LOL!) They are the people you know online, the ones you may never meet in person. Or perhaps someday, you shall.
Friendships online will be the subject of many writings: fiction, non-fiction and poetry, for years to come. They are the creation of a new age, the new time of the internet when suddenly, you can find someone who has read the same books you have, lived through the same life tragedies, shares the same spirit!

Of course, there is a danger here. Isn't there always?

Your internet relationships -- forget the dangers/spice of internet romance, I'm talking friends here -- have a way of consuming your days and times, perhaps to the exclusion of your flesh and blood friends. The friends that you could see everyday, the ones that you should have phoned, but your phone line was tied up while you were (you guessed it) online to your book club or your poetry group or the parents of children with special needs. Your real friends and family will raise their eyebrows, become exasperated or puzzled when you speak of your imaginary friends.

You'll need to strike a balance.

Future folks will need to keep themselves open to relationships both of the "flesh and blood" and "the words on a screen" nature. The balance of both will allow you to miss a day online (just like you missed a phone call or two) with no regrets, because you were tied up in your "real" life. Not to mention that it will be tempting to "be" someone that you are not, when you are online. Losing sight of the truth of your life, just because the other party may never meet you and learn the truth, well it can be just as despicable, just as dangerous, as a lie told face to face. We all wish for times when we were someone we're not -- but its important not to try to live through those fantasies.

But, try not to approach it with too much reservation!

Because it is amazing, is it not? You've formed fast friendships with Aussies, with folks from West Virginia, with people decades older or younger than you. A citizen of the world and not just your small town or impersonal city -- your ability to learn about and from people has just increased exponentially! They'll know you, perhaps, only by your "handle" or "username". They'll remember your stories and the composition of your family, because they can always go back and check their archives. They won't laugh at you just because you've fallen into use of the term "y'all", and it sounds so funny with a Minnesota accent! And they'll appreciate you for the same, and the support and kindness in the company of strangers who aren't strangers any more.
So here's to the texture and reality of all our "imaginary friends":

Imaginary friends - soupers and others, you have enriched my days in ways I never could have comprehended when I first heard the word, "internet".
I forgot the best part. That's me and 3 of my imaginary friends in a face to face in April, 2008. Known each other for about 6 years, first meeting, and it was like we grew up together. Well, 2 of them are sisters, so I guess they did....but you get the point.


Kelly said...

What a surprise to see our picture pop up on your blog!!

This is a wonderful post and really got me to thinking. I'm getting together later this week with a group of girls I've known for years (the same bunch I blogged about earlier in the year). A couple of them don't do much on the internet and really can't understand how I can have honest-to-goodness "friends" that I've never met in real life.

I'm glad we were able to advance our friendship from "imaginary" to "real-life", LOL!

Pam said...

What? You're not imaginary? You mean we really had that fantastic weekend get-together?? :)

Love the photos! *Sigh*

Miss my online friends that actually climbed out of the screen to hug and laugh and eat and talk like there were no tomorrow!

Really wonderful post!

I have been able to *almost* taste the sweet back-of-the-neck sugar of a friend's new son. I've toasted a beloved Sculptor and laughed with and adorable redhead over my web cam. I've traveled vicariously with a special friend in the DC area. I've traveled to the Netherlands with a special Raven and shared the loss and growth of a woman whose care for her elderly parents is inspirational.

And on and on...

You got me going, my friend!

Serena Joy said...

Love your new blog, and love that picture. I think there's nothing imaginary about the friends you make online. Lord love the Internet!

Algernon said...

So called "imaginary friends" once used to get acquainted and stay in touch via letters on paper carried by the Pony Express. The internet speeds things up and gives us more media with which to enjoy one another. It's a lovely thing, but your note of caution is also well founded.

quid said...

I have the best of memories about this weekend. Serena, glad you found me!