Cyber Friendships: are they real?

Tonight I commented on a thread over at Agent Query.  A few minutes later, my cell phone chinked, indicating a new email.  I knew without checking who it would be.  And I was right.  I’d received a PM from a dear friend of mine based on my comment.

There, I admitted it.  I don’t live in the real world.  I talk to my cyber friends as if they were right here with me.  We joke, laugh, poke fun at our foibles and support each other during some pretty rough times. 

I adore my writing friends, and since I don’t know many writers personally, my fellow scribes live mainly in my mind and on the internet.  And yet I care about them in the same way I care about my real life friends.  

I’m quite certain my DH thinks I’m mad and I keep peeking over my shoulder so he doesn’t slip on my little white coat.  After all, it’s probably not normal to talk about people who I’ve never met as if we just left the bar together two hours ago. 

My kids probably think I’m the biggest hypocrite alive.  

“Don’t ever talk to people you don’t know online.”  Oh yes, I’ve said this more than a hundred times.

And yet, here I am, sharing life and passion with complete strangers whom I call friends.  Heck, I’ve prayed for them, danced the happy dance for them and gotten my feathers ruffled when I felt an injustice had been done to one of them.

Is this wrong?  Can you truly be friends with someone you have never met?  Will likely never meet?  If  no, why not?

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21 responses to “Cyber Friendships: are they real?

  1. I can beat that. I just saw a post from a writer friend in Wales. She’d been whinging and wailing to a “friend” in the US about her miserable day – all on the Facebook chat thing. Her friend didn’t respond for the longest time, and she was getting all depressed that she’d frightened her off with her meltdown.

    Suddenly there was a knock on the door. The friend’s parents lived across town and she’d sent them over with chocolate and red wine.

  2. YES! Those friendships are so very real. I do admit that I sometimes feel awkward saying I was talking to my FRIEND about something when referring to an online writing buddy. Not because I don’t think of them that way, but because I know whoever I’m speaking to in real life at that moment probably thinks I’m nuts haha.

    I have made some great friendships with fellow writers online – people whose books I’d buy simply to support them; people whose successes make me happy by proxy; people whose opinions I greatly value; people I REALLY hope aren’t psycho killers, just on the off chance that we’d meet one day 😛

    • JLo,

      I totally wonder about that somedays. I mean I ADORE many of my cyber friends and would be so heartbroken to find out I’ve been hanging with the next serial killer.

      And yes, it is a great joy to watch my friends accomplish great things. There are times I find myself getting more excited for my friends than I do for myself. I’ve been in on the very nitty gritty of agent-securing with a few and it makes me positively giddy.

      I hope you’re in on that list some day soon. Your writing is truly captivating.

  3. Why should friendship be limited to face-to-face relationships? Emails have replaced pen-and-ink pen pal relationships, but those have gone on for centuries and some have been remarkable. No, just because there ARE monsters out there who pray upon the innocent doesn’t mean that there aren’t far more good people who can be trusted, valued and life-long friends. Heck, I’m hoping to meet up with some of them at a conference next year!

    • Victoria, as usual you are very right and level headed about the whole thing. In this day and age, we just get our feedback much quicker than waiting for the Pony Express!

      I would definitely love to meet up with you someday. No monster here, I promise!

  4. Most of my friends are online these days. I hang out daily with a group of really amazing women I met about four or five years ago – and I’ve since met them in person twice! Each time, we picked a spot, all of us flew in, and had a great time chatting it up in person for a wonderful long weekend. I’ve made some really great writer friends as well, and one of my oldest friends is a writer friend I first met online through a writing email group over ten years ago!

    The only challenge to having most of your friends be online friends is, throwing a party usually means mostly your husband’s friends show up 🙂 Mine would come if they could, but none of them live in Canada!

    • Belle,

      It is so awesome that you hang with your girls like that. You can be my inspiration for forging lasting friendships with some of the pretty awesome people I’ve met.

      Funny, about half my good cyber friends are from Canada. The world really does get small with the internet.

  5. Of course we can be friends even if we never meet. How else would we maintain friendships with people a world away? And I think you’re right to try and safeguard your kids. You’re an adult and have a better filter for those who might be trying to exploit you. You probably have an easier time dropping someone who’s behaving inappropriately toward you.

    And you won’t be targeted by pedophiles pretending to be kids. ^_^ Adults can also talk to strangers without risking that. I think the kiddos can wait a bit for that.

    • Barbara, so very true about the youngsters. My third grader just asked for a FB page.

      Heck no!!!

      But he asked because some of his friends have them. I’m like, wow, where have I been? Such a scary world out there for kids.

  6. Oh we’re totally gonna meet, Cat – count on it 🙂

    I’m with you though, I felt awkward at first talking about my “online friends.” Just the other day I was telling the b/f about some editor feedback and used the phrase, “well RC from AQ said,” and he goes… “You know you can just call her Rachel right? I know who you’re talking about by now. And her last name isn’t AQ.”

    I also think it would be interesting to meet online writer friends in person, like at a conference. I’d be calling real people by their screennames, and no doubt would totally cease to be Mindy and become completely digested by BBC. And you know what? I’m cool with that.

    • LOL, I can just picture you SO laying it on the line. Love his comment about AQ not being her last name. I often wonder what DH thinks when I spout off about my cyber friends as if they’re my besties from next door.

      And yes, we shall meet. Seriously, we are so close as to be corn field neighbors. My mistake at my conference was going as my real self. I should have used my pen name for registration. Silly me. Next time I’ll do that–and confuse the heck out of the people I met last time. I suppose I could just say that my real-me is my twin!

  7. Weighing in a little late, but I really think you can have genuine friendships via the internet. Aren’t there famous friendships that existed only in letters, back before we all got cyber spoiled? I’m sure there are. And my parents? Their entire COURTSHIP was via letters, except for a few actual dates, and my dad proposed on the phone. And they had a long, satisfying marriage until my father’s death a few years ago.

    I don’t know a lot of writers in my local area, either, so it’s nice to have virtual writing buddies. And I’d love to meet them in person some day.

  8. No, it’s not wrong. Yes, you can be friend with someone you have never met. Maybe one day you WILL meet in person. And sometimes it’s better to talk to a stranger than an old friend.
    I’ve had penpals all over the world in the past century, some I’ve met, some I’ve not, some I’ve lost either after meeting them or never having met them.
    Now everything is online, but it’s the same principle (and guess what? Some of those long lost penpals popped up on Facebook and looked me up! ;-))…

    • Yay! Facebook has definitely opened up our lives to remeeting friends from the past. Glad you’ve been able to take advantage of that.

      And I agree, sometimes it’s nice to chat with people you don’t have to share the grocery line with.

  9. It’s good to see that I’m not the only one who holds cyber friends in high regard! I have gotten to know some wonderful kindred spirits through the power of the internet, many of whom I’ve gone on to meet in real life. It’s not as scary or weird as I used to believe!

    • You’ve been blessed to have met so many good friends–online and in person. It’s nice to know that who we are online often jives with who we are in person. Some day I’d love to meet many of my cyber buddies. A great big party would be fantastic!

  10. There is absolutely nothing wrong with interacting with people online, especially as a former member of the Wednesday Night Cougar Club!

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