Friday, September 07, 2007

Weekend: Friendships.....

I'm writing this post off the top of my head. It is an offshoot of a discussion that is presented from a different perspective on BlogRhet this morning. Take a look if you get the chance.

When I was a kid, friendships had an entirely different significance in our lives. Our friends were the people we shared our lives with, told our stories and experiences to, supported each other, giving each other the sense that there was always someone who would have our backs. We enjoyed together, rejoiced together and shared in each other's life passages. It was a different world. Really. It was.

That practice of friendship seems to have been replaced with a more utilitarian, functional approach to friendship. Friendships are determined by the benefit one might offer to another, whether it meets networking or business goals.

Or maybe I just spent too much time in Los Angeles.

The discussion on BlogRhet poses the question as to whether the Internet has taken the place of deeper friendships.

My opinion is that in the final analysis, the internet might allow us to get momentary satisfaction of our deepest needs.. but it's kind of like a one-night stand. It feels really good at the time ~ but doesn't have sustainability.

Or does it?

Let's speculate for a minute that this is the wave of the future.

Consider it a science fiction exercise. Our friends will be those people with whom we frequently share pixels on these flat screens in front of us. That dimension is it.

Kind of like "Solyent Green", only scarier.

What are the politics of Internet friendships? How do we determine the hierarchy of friendship? If I mail something to you, does that mean you are a better friend? If I call you on the phone, does that imply a higher degree of intimacy? What is the natural progression of friendship? Email to phone to ??? Mailing? Meeting? How is the closeness measured? Or is it?

What are the rules? What are the boundaries?

What does the future look like with this kind of development?



Anvilcloud said...

Which reminds me that I need to write to my ten-year internet friend. We became email pals before blogging was invented and have visited across the miles a number of times.

Emily said...

I live across an ocean from some very old and deep friends. We speak mostly via email and haven't seen each other in years. They are still my friends.

Mary said...

No rules, no boundaries. I've formed some great relationships through blogging. You know when it's a good friendship.

slouching mom said...

I agree with Mary. One can tell, I think, intuitively, what would make a phenomenal friendship IRL. I don't think we're any less selective when it comes to our virtual buddies.

There are two, maybe three, bloggers out there about whom I believe that if we were to live in the same town, we'd be the best of friends.

flutter said...

I don't think the way you meet is as important as your personality in terms of how you cultivate relationships.

Aliki2006 said...

I agree with flutter--I do think in large part that it's about cultivating friendships. Internet friendships are important, and they take even more work to cultivate and keep up because of how intangible they are--how potentially fleeting. Because we have to stop and think carefully before throwing out words--think carefully about how they will be interpreted and understood.

I personally believe in the sustainability of internet friendships. I have some internet friends I've known for almost 10 years now. But it take work and extra commitment.

jen said...

i believe energy flows and shifts online as with in person relationships. just because it's virtual doesn't make it any less real, and as with any friendships, i ebb and flow with the amount of contact i have with folks that doesn't reflect my care for them.

Open Grove Claudia said...

I don't think the internet has changed my relationships at all. I still have deep (or not) relationships with the people I want to have deep (or not) relationships with. I've met more people, peeked into their worlds - but I don't think it's affected me in other ways.

MsLittlePea said...

The politics of internet friendships---hmmm, that gave me something to think about. In many ways the blog world is a lot like high school cliques but at the same time there are some real friendships that can be formed. I think the boundaries whatever are the individual's comfort level allows. I have yet to meet anyone since my readers and blog friends don't live in the same town but I would be open to it. I can say with all honesty that some of my blog friends were more supportive and encouraging during the worst part of my health problems than most of the people I know personally and that said A LOT to me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

If there are rules, I'm not aware of them. I think it's natural to really click with somebody and want to bring that friendship into "real life," but I am perfectly happy with my internet friends whom I will likely never meet.

I thoroughly enjoy the glimpses I'm allowed into so many other lives, and find that I do care very much about many of them. Perhaps we share more of our real selves because the internet provides a safety zone that is lacking in traditional relationships as we know that most of us would not be recognizable to our blog friends on the street.

We also form friendships here based on our inner selves which are not influenced by appearances. I find this quite freeing.

Kyla said...

Everyone has made such excellent points. I met my husband online at a young age, so I do see sustainability in what begins as an online relationship. I believe they can evolve just like a face to face relationship, but the right elements have to be present. I think it can evolve into anything, or it can stay online...but they are both valuable in distinct ways. I don't think that online relationships can ever fully replace corporeal ones, but it can ease the burden on the corporeal and fill very real needs.

Christine said...

flutter read my mind. i don't have a lot of answers, but the internet has deepened IRL friendships, created new ones, and hurt others. but in the end i don't have a quantifiable measure of my friendships with others. i don't regard one person a better internet friend if they call or send things.

painted maypole said...

these are interesting questions, and ones I ponder as I go into my 4th month of blogging - what do I get out of this? what are these relationships I'm building? is this negatively or positively impacting my life away from the screen? No answers yet, but thanks for helping me formulate the questions.

blooming desertpea said...

I think you can make the same decisions about IRL as you do with the ones offline. They can be superficial or very deep. It depends very much on the kind of people you meet. Very much like in the offline world.

Gwen said...

I haven't read Blogrhet yet (no time), but while my internet relationships are meaningful to me, they aren't the same as my real life ones. I don't think that's true for everyone, though. Because I think we all have different reasons for coming to the web and those needs are then fulfilled differently. But if I want true support, I don't expect it from the computer in front of me, honestly. I hope that doesn't sound offensive.

Hel said...

For me it is a different friendship but like the friendship where you get to see someone regularly there are no rules.

Every relationship has a life of its own, it grows where it will because two people are involved and both their stories are constantly shifting and changing.

I love the fact that I get to meet people which distance would previously prevented me from meeting.

I would prefer to be able to walk over to their houses for a cup of tea every now and again but this is definitely better than never meeting them at all.

Also if I met them casually I might never have guessed at the depth their hearts.

thailandchani said...

Anvil, I have some contacts from that far back as well. Before blogging. Before the web even.. when we were using ELM and PINE. :)


Emily, I have lost track of most old friends.. and with the way our lives have changed, I'm not certain we'd have much in common with anymore.

A few are still around, those who don't mind seeing some rather radical life changes on my part.


Mary, interesting. I've never been able to imagine any kind of social interaction without rules, spoken or unspoken.

It's the unspoken ones that will bite us in the ass.


SM, I agree with you. There are some contacts on-line.. people I now trust and relate to very freely on the phone and in other ways. They are just as real to me, just as important to me, as anyone who lives in the same city.


Flutter, that's a good point. We do all have different ways of establishing friendships.

This "cyber" thing is kind of uncharted territory from a sociological point of view. I think that's what got me to thinking about it so much.


Aliki, I believe you are fundamentally correct. Most of my contacts have come from memberships on mailing lists. There was a great opportunity to get to know each other. The sequential steps as far as mailing list would be mailing list --> private email --> phone. Perhaps meeting if close enough. It was fairly well established and everyone knew what the markers were.

But that was ten years or more in the making.


Jen, I agree with you in the most fundamental sense. There are natural ebbs and flows to all things, including relationships and including internet connections. Trust is still an issue though.. and, at least for me, the ebb and flow is so much easier after a basis of trust has been built.

That's where the gnarly issues of communication come in.

I have several examples of how this has occurred before but I don't want to bore the bejeezus out of everyone so I'll spare.. :)


Claudia, I understand. I think I've found that internet connections are far more fragile than 3D ones.


MsPea, I've had the same experience. Some of my Internet acquaintances "get" me a lot more than people I've known here for several years. Someone mentioned the anonymity being a factor in that, the freedom to speak more freely, and there seems to be some validity to that.


Susan, the safety zone. Absolutely! I know that I am far more open with some of my internet contacts than I would ever be in person.

Sometimes the "meeting in person" thing can blow something that has quite enough substance on its own.

I suspect meeting also contributes to more of the "cliquishness" that MsPea mentioned.


Kyla, I read your comment on BlogRhet as well, and I think you make a good point. Sometimes we do have more freedom with internet contacts.


Christine, that sounds good! I would like to think we can get beyond measuring.. but it seems so standard in the social world.. and it's a bit intimidating.:)


Maypole, maybe it will grow up to be a post from you one day. :)


DesertPea, that's probably correct. The thing is with 3D relationships is that we can see cues that are unavailable to us on the computer. Body language, inflection and such can really communicate a lot.

I'm the first to admit that social navigation is not something I'm good at. I'm often the one who is standing wide-eyed like a deer in the headlights. :)


Gwen, it doesn't sound offensive. I'd have to say that most of my presence on the internet has been idea-based.. so the notion of voluntary communities that are computer-based are all still rather new and confusing.


Hel, again.. the freedom of expression that takes place on the Internet is why we get to know the depth of people's hearts.

That, I do believe. :)


Peace, all... thanks for the discussion :)


Molly said...

Great post. Fascinating subject. I may have to steal it, if you don't mind---too much to say in just a comment.....

thirtysomething said...

I agree pretty much with the other commenters, online/blogging friends are in many ways like the ones we see and sit down beside, chatting over a cup of coffee. I agree that it can take more to sustain an online friendship, but I do feel that online friends can be equally as supportive as 'real life' friends, sometimes more b/c we almost can feel more open to share our real selves and thoughts if we don't feel so vulnerable from visible emotions or judgements.

eastcoastdweller said...

Chani: I'm actually fairly new to blogging so I'm not qualified to render judgment. But the friendships that I am beginning to develop are certainly satisfying.

Thank You for visiting my blog the other day! Check out its Sister-site, when You have time!

By the way, that's a wonderful goal You have and a unique one.

Anonymous said...

this is funny because people look at friendships differently than others. What I would consider an aquaintanceship is deep friendship to another.

I find that the people who I've made a special connection with on the internet do not replace friends I know in person. There are no obligations with internet "friends". You can shut off; guilt free.

I find that the like minds I've met here in the blogospere have enriched my everyday existence. The ideas, the thoughts, the ways of thinking and the ones very similar to me are wonderful. I feel less of an outcast, less of a loner, and more a part of the bigger picture.

I would love to have mirls, and friendships blossom from my experiences here, however, as I stated above, there are no expectations, no disappointments, no offense.

How does it progress? How is closeness measured? I would say that if a friendship blooms and it becomes so equally and over time in an organic way, then it can only be positive. Like any good friendship, it can't be forced.

Liz said...

Such a great question you ask. I've asked folks who have hundreds of MySpace friends, "How many will come pick you up if your car breaks down?" The number who'll do that is very slim, of course. On the other hand, MySpace and Facebook have helped me reconnect with folks. I just don't want to use people for getting ahead. That just doesn't feel right.

thailandchani said...

Molly, please feel free to steal it. I hope you get a chance to look at the catalyst for my post on BlogRhet as well. :)


Thirty, I can see what you're saying.. and the Internet does provide a way to be more open without having any judgments that are of the "blink" variety. :)


Eastcoast, thanks :)


Reflecting, I agree that it can't be forced.. but I also believe that we can develop more meaningful communication, even with those who are not like us. It's a hard one to balance and I admit I've never been very casual about any of it.

What I write and express here is an extension of how I am in everyday life with people in my immediate sphere. The dynamic is similar. Not exactly the same.. but similar.


Liz, I agree.. and admit that I've never had a MySpace account or anything similar. Something about MySpace gives me the creeps.





Carla said...

One can still be near to the heart without being physically present.

SUEB0B said...

These are good questions. I don't even know if you can be "friends" with someone with whom you have never physically met. It feels like it, but it might just be a pale imitation of the real thing.

crazymumma said...

I think the people I blog with, the people who I visit most often, who visit me most often, I would have relationship with in real life. I think that the computer, the blogging has just allowed us to expand the parameters of how a friendship is formed.