Thursday, June 14, 2007

Are You a Friend?

Friendship has been a common theme around my blog circle these days. I have already discussed the topic in general in my post, “For Sale: Friend, Low Mileage, $4000 OBO”. Lately, I have been considering the whole Internet friendship thing – particularly in the blogosphere. That’s YOU guys.

What is the status of our friendship?
Many of us are guarded. I have written cryptically in some posts, vague in others. A lot of you do not even have an email address available for people to write you. I am not much better; I set up a gmail account just for my blog life (psycho.wit@gmail.com).

I ask again; what is the status of our friendship? There have been Internet pals over the years that I have gotten chummy with. We have written emails, talked on the phone, and even met. I married one of them – although that isn’t what I set out to do.

Today, it is different. Everyone is guarded – including me. Things are less real. It is as if this is some online video game where we think, “I wonder if Jane is going to respond to my post.” Or, “I hope that Joe wasn’t offended with my feedback.” Shoot, some of us are so stat-crazy that we are fixated on the number of hits that we received on our last entry. I, myself, marveled at my “recent visitor map” page right before I started on this post.

What is the status of our friendship?

Recently, I have been going through some severe challenges in my life. Some of the more thoughtful of you have figured out what it is about to a certain degree. Is it because you care or is it that you love a challenge? Sometimes I get caught up thinking of some of you as more than an organization of letters on my screen and had flashes of “I ought to ask ‘Mary’ what she thinks of this mess.” Or, “John went through this sort of thing, I’ll ask him for his perspective.” Then I think, “What is wrong with you, Jeff? These people are video game characters. Step into the real world.”

What is the status of our friendship?

I guess we aren’t really friends, are we? We are part of an online community. It is kind of like a neighborhood. I am friendly with all my neighbors (that are interested in my friendliness, anyway). Yet, I don’t go to dinner with any of them. None of them know of my troubles, but many are polite enough to comment on today’s events or willing to wish me well when I am sick or perceived troubled, I guess.

Many in the blogosphere are loners. I have read some of your blogs in which you admit this. I, myself, am not a TRUE loner, but I have my loner moments. I do have a number of friends. People call and check on me. I met a friend for lunch even today – a REAL friend who I talked uncryptically about what is going on. However, there are others out there who feel TRULY alone. The blog community is all they have. Is it enough?

I don’t really have any answers. I do know that people need people. You can stay “safe” and still be there for your fellow human being. Reach out to someone today (if you are at all inclined to do so) or let him or her reach out to you. You might even get something out of it yourself.




23 comments:

Jimmy said...

This is such an interesting concept. I often wonder about it myself, because I tend to be friendly in my approach to reading blogs. Sometimes I assume people want to hear back because, well, they put it out there, you know?

I do find myself a little hesitant. I think a common thread among the bloggers I've met is that they often want to reach out, offer advice, be helpful, etc.But I wonder if people can be put off by too much familiarity, or eagerness to get involved.

I'd like to think that if I ran into anyone I read, that it would be perfectly fine to grab a drink or a meal together, but that's just me.

It's hard to find the boundaries sometimes.

Tai said...

I'm a blogger that doesn't get very personal when things are going poorly.
It's not because I'm afraid of what people with think of me, it's because, years later, I don't want to come back and relive what ever painful moments I may have been going through at the time.
Some people find a great deal of peace when they fully express themselves, I respect that completely and sometimes wish I could let myself experience that.
When people do allow others to come into their 'livingrooms' and see what their real world looks like, I like to think that the compassionate and thoughtful responses those 'strangers' might submit ARE helpful and felt kindly.
What kind of friendship?
It's like a long distance telephone kind, I think.
You may not ever see them, but you can still appreciate the sound of their voice and know that your best interests are important to them, as well.

Michelle said...

Interesting question.

I got drawn into blogging by an online friend ( prema of Kombai) who asked me to be her team mate. We were friends already, from hanging out on the same internet forum and sharing/chatting via email. So I started blogging already in "friend" mode.

I've moved around several internet forums, but over the last four years I've belonged to one whose core group has remained unchanged. These people are genuine friends. When possible we visit each other, we phone, we send cards.. But more importantly we are there for each other. We've helped members through divorces, family illness, deaths, job losses and bankrupties. We share and we support. We're very lucky, but we've also worked at it. Friendship is a two-way thing.

I've had internet friends visit, was witness at one's wedding and I married one! :-) So yes, I do think internet friendships can be incredibly good.

But it is frustrating that I can't have some of my favourite friends over to visit because they live on different continents. That can feel lonely/frustrating at times.

Blogging? I'm still learning, but I have noticed that people here can be more detached. My forum world is like going down to the local pub/bar. Everyone knows you, but that also means everyone has heard your stories and jokes and you can start feeling a little bored. Loved and safe, but bored.

Blogging does feel less "safe", but I have hoped that blogging will making me "stretch" and take more risks. We'll have to see..

I'll shut up now. I'm getting rambly.

Oh, I'm way too thick to have figured out what's bothering you, Jeff, but I do care and I really hope you get it sorted.

Jeff said...

Jimmy: Yeah, boundaries are tough. It is interesting how the Internet is not as safe as running into someone in a bar. It really doesn't make much sense. I mean, someone in a bar can follow you home.

Tai: Long distance, yes. Are the REAL, though, like a voice on the phone?

Michelle: It is funny how blogs are differet than boards. I wonder why that is. Someone writes something; others respond. Hmm. . .

I hope that no one was thinking that I meant anything negative about what I wrote about people figuring out my problem. I was merely using that as example rhetorically. I think it is great that anyone would care as much to give it that much thought.

Stepping Over the Junk said...

I have revealed my identity and name and such to a few people I consider my friends from the blogland. They are different than my neighbor who I see every day on the front stoop in good weather and sit and talk to for hours on end. Different from my friend in California from grade school who I havent seen aside from a quick lunch a few years ago...in 20 years or so. In ways she is a closer friend than someone I hang out with here in town for the last two...but it is all different. We get different things from different people. Same way that if in a relationship you are not getting all aspects of what you want or need, you can fill in with family and friends and appreciate what you are getting from the whole circle. Friends come and go and they change and roll with the flow...depends on what is going on in our lives, the changes of the friendship.

paisley said...

and then there are people like me,, i am thrilled with the "friends" i have in the blogging community,,, because i do not want people in my life...

i like playing with the "video-game characters"... i like sharing with them, and reading their responses to my posts... i like commenting and reading the comments of others... but i do not want any interaction above and beyond that....

for me, and i would suggest there are other people like me out there... this is all we have,, because this is all we want.....

Jeff said...

People have different ideas about this whole blogosphere chaos, don't they? It is interesting. In some realms, most people just fall into line and adopt the "Jones'" menatality. Not here. Some folks can bring you into their world completely; others have rules for blogland. Conformity doesn't apply here - not in a wide sweeping way, anyway.

Stepping Over: You're right, of course. People give what you need and their shortcomings can be made up for elsewhere. You seem to have no specific rules here, so that makes it less like a video game to you. That is my take on it, anyway.

Paisley: Welcome, by the way. You are an interesting person. I think it would be interesting to get to know you more - in the confines of blogland, of course. :)

Galen Brannagh said...

In some ways it seems like this can be a double-edged sword. Some of us out here in cyberspace are being completely open and honest with our writings. Others are adding embellishments here are there. Still others are writing complete fantasy - living out their dreams in the blogosphere.

When we befriend our fellow bloggers, how can we tell if what we're befriending is fact or fiction?

It kind or reminds me of the James Frey "A Million Little Pieces" scandal. He wrote his story and presented it to the public as truth. When it was discovered that he had actually embellished some of the truth, then the public felt betrayed. The same thing happens here - not all of the time and not from everyone, but it does happen.

That, and the fact that we all blog for different reasons, does leave a lot of gray area when it comes to making friends.

I, for one, don't view all of this as pure entertainment.

Sayre said...

I feel a real connection to my "friends" in blogland. Perhaps because so much of my contact with extended family has been in written form (they live overseas), that I feel comfortable communicating this way. So in the same way that I connected with my family, I also connect with people "out there".

It can be a wonderful experience and it can be awful. I am careful of using names and try not to identify myself too specifically because there ARE those fruitcakes out there who believe there is invitation where there really is not. One of my favorite bloggers just had to shut down her blog because of some really nasty harassment by someone SHE NEVER MET.

But I do have a little core of people that I do consider friends. I will be your sounding board, I will offer advice (if asked and sometimes even if not). I will laugh with you, cry with you, cheer your triumphs and mourn your sorrows. I may never lay eyes on you, hear your voice, or be able to offer you a hug, but in every other way you can consider me your friend.

Shan said...

Uhhh... hmmm... friends hey...

I really never considered this... Sure I consider people on blogs my friend because we share a common interest. But blogs are more of an outlet for my creative emotions and if anyone happens to enjoy what I write, then even better. I guess I'd prefer to let time pass before I can consider them a friend.

But uhh, yeah, I've got friends lol, in today's world, it's all about networking isn't it? The more people you know the better, and I gotta live up to that...

The Real Mother Hen said...

Wonderful Blog! Wonderful :)
I do think my fellow bloggers are my real friends though... take Steph for example, she is moving this Friday. If I were to live in the same city as her, I would certainly go over and help her. Or if I read your blog and know you're here in OR, I'll make sure you have a good meal at my place every once in a while. To me personally, there isn't a line seperating "cyberspace" and "real-life"... maybe because I didn't have the intention to create a different "online" identity to start with...

Chelle said...

There are very few, and I mean few, that I open up completely to. There are "weak" moments when I am so frustrated or upset I have posted it on my blog. But, for the most part, I keep it to myself. I just do not open up to others. On this thing, or in real life. Once you been burnt 1 too many times in the trust department it is hard to trust again. There are a couple that I truely do care about. I can count them on one hand. That is what true friends are. Very few and far between. I am fortunate to have met a couple on here and in real life. Funny thing is they are mostly men. Makes you wonder why I don't trust either myself enough to open up to women, or trust the women themselves. Men just seem so much easier to bond with. ::shrug::

Now, that I just opened up a little in a COMMENT to someone I read here n there.

Great post, got me thinking. Just like many of Charles's posts. ::smiles::

Jeff said...

Galen: You are right, of course. People can misrepresent. I think you just have to take people as they come. Like I said in my post, you don't have to put yourself in danger to reach out to someone. Good response.

Sayre: Yep, there are definitely fruitcakes. When you have a blog, you can't guarantee who will happen along and misrepresent. Building trust is always tricky. You do well in offering your friendship, though.

Shan: Typical ambitious male response. lol Network away!

Mother Hen: You certainly are trusting and you have a great heart. How fortunate I am to have run across you. My mother-in-law lives in Oregon, so get out your skillet! I bound to be along one of these days. :)

Chelle: Welcome. I am glad you commented. Any friend of Charles's, . . .

"Now, that I just opened up a little in a COMMENT to someone I read here n there."

Better read me a little more than here n there so you can feel better about your transparency. lol

HollyGL said...

I actually really do care about certain people I have met through blogging. Yourself being one of them. Mother Hen has an open heart, which elicits my trust. You seem to as well.

I can be very guarded about allowing new people entree into my life (based on some past stalker experiences, but there are a few who have touched me in a certain way that has opened that door.

I do consider you a friend, Jeff. I care about what happens to you in your life. Does it make logical sense considering the reality of our interaction? No. But the feeling is there all the same.

Loz said...

I too believe that I have made friends through my blogs, as for the nature of the friendship the jury is still out. I would be happy to meet some of them in person, to share some real life interaction in real time. I am glad that my circle of contact has expanded and the 6 degrees of separation has narrowed.

I do sometimes wish that I had been a little more anonymous than I am. Not because I haven't been honest in what I have written, but because I have not written or published some things that have been a bit more brutaly honest out of a desire not to hurt people.

Jod{i} said...

Well..
THere are so many little avenues to walk down with this...I have friends on this space called blog. Sure. THere are those I call close, where we have even gone as far as talking on the phone. Yet I am ever so guarded, being what the Net is, and having witnessed some terrible things...
There are those I respect, and I call friend. I appreciate those who write with an open honest, or shall I say a percieved open and honest dialogue.
I think it comes with time.
I like to "look" at my friends on line as an ongoing dialogue...and anyone else who chooses to join, is good too...
I may write a bit cryptic, more for the protection of others, or those who have said,"Do not write about me".
I do know I have nothing to hide. And I write how I think.
If someone appreciates that, good.
If someone swings by and says , eh...thats okay too.
I have always found myself wondering what so and so is up to...and if they havent written I wonder. I have even worried.
Do I put too much out there? Yeah I would suppose.
Interesting post, got me thinking.
So what is the statues of our friendship?
:D

Random Magus said...

Blogging is strange it operates on totally different principles and so paradoxically you make friends that you care a lot about yet might not now know too much off.
In some ways it is the ideal platform in so much as you reveal parts of yourself you want to... since there are no expectations these are friendships that will not let you down...
You have total control so you feel most at ease to reveal parts of yourself.
You guys would know much more about whats going on inside my head as compared to whats going on, on the outside... in day to day life.
People I meet in real life really don't know whats going on in my head because sometimes real life and our conversations in it are so much more artificial than we have here.
Plus in the blogosphere we meet each other almost daily and that's simply impossible with friends outside the virtual world.
Personally I feel that when we write about our dreams and our fears in our blogs we have such freedom because we know that its unlikely that we'd ever meet in real life or have fingers point at us or judge us.
I revealed more of what I was feeling during my dad's bypass to all of you than I did to my 'real life' friends

Laura said...

hmmmm....i care, really i do. but honestly i have little time with all the comings and goings here. plus i have had my own marriage crap lately to wallow in....i thought of you often through it all asking what would jeff do hen i would have a diet coke and lime. i always think of you then, jeff.
honestly, we all wonder if this blog (ours) is on when we pour our hearts out and no one responds. but on the other side, we often find we don't know what to say and rather than just say that we remain quiet.
sorry.

Jeff said...

Stephanie: Thanks. I know that blog friendship is tricky. I don't feel that I am as open to pouring myself into it anymore than most I run into. It is just one of those things.

Loz: You are one of the most open people I have run across. I guess it is a little different as a man. I am not really concerned about stalkers or anything myself, but I would be concerned if I was a woman. I like to remain a bit gurarded because I fear actual people in my life will run across my blog and be hurt or feel violated with my "honesty".

Jodi: We have a lot in common when it comes to blog friendship. I share those sentiments. What is the status of our friendship? :) Well, I would say that we have the closest friendship as the fates currently allow. However, don't ask me to lend you money. lol

Jeff said...

Random Magus: That is a really interesting take on this topic. You can be closer emotionally to your blogosphere friends because they know your inner thoughts more than your real world friends. I guess that is a pretty good trade off.

Laura: I know you are a caring person. You would have to be with your job. I am sorry that you are going through a bit of marriage crap. Really, my stuff just put me in the mind of this blog friendship stuff. Not because I found all of you lacking, but because I know there are those out there who have NO ONE else to turn to. Whenever I am going through trials, my mind tends to drift to those who are worse off.

There is no need to worry about me. I am only alone when I want to be. I have good support from my family and a small circle of friends. They call and check on me when they haven't heard from me in a couple of days. There are just those that don't have that and I wonder what I am doing about that.

Jod{i} said...

Dang it!

tee heee....

And I agree!

Loz said...

People i know have found my blogs and it has caused some issues, partly because i have been way more honest here than i have ever been elsewhere.

Jeff said...

Loz: Yeah, that is my fear so I am walking on a thin line. I don't reveal too much, but if people did find the blog they might figure stuff out. I don't know.