On-line Friends Real, Not Virtual

I was having a conversation with a bunch of friends the other day when it struck me this was pretty cool.

We were conversing via group text. And how did we all meet? Online. It’s a brave new world, baby, get used to it.

More to the point, get wired. Or maybe I should say, get Wi-Fi. Become one with the cyber universe. Embrace your virtual friends.

Some of these women I have spent time with in person. The others I have yet to meet face to face, but we consider ourselves friends nonetheless. Together, we make up a kind of tribe, and I am deeply fond of them all.

There was a time I would have considered this foray into the cyber world odd. Risky, even. After all, you never know who’s out there just waiting to take advantage of naive people like me. And it is still a good idea to protect your kids by supervising them and teaching them how to be safe. Children are not equipped to detect predators or scams.

But I would say, for fully informed adults who approach the web with a healthy dose of caution, the Internet offers an exhilarating number of possibilities for human connection. It’s old hat by now for people to communicate directly with each other regardless of borders, boundaries and oceans. We can never shrink our world back to what it was in the pre Internet days, nor would we want to. The thought of doing that makes me feel downright claustrophobic.

As for developing relationships online-I can only say that the friends I’ve made this way are as real as the ones I’ve made in what I used to call my “real life.” That term is antiquated now and inaccurate. My “virtual” friends are just as real and just as important.

We started “talking” to each other because of a specific interest. Through many interactions with many different people, we naturally gravitated toward those who shared other interests and values, who had personalities that “fit” together, who made us laugh and think and feel. The more those in our winnowed down group interacted, the closer we became. They enrich my life. And I do believe they feel the same about me. Isn’t that what friendship is all about? Kind of like digital “pen pals.”

I would challenge anyone who still believes you can’t form meaningful relationships over the Net. It just isn’t true. They may start out differently, but in the end it’s always the same things that keep you together long enough to form emotional bonds shared values, interests and passions, compatible personalities, and the willingness to let others in.

Although we all live in different parts of the country we connect through texting (group texting is a marvelous invention), Facebook, Twitter and email. Every so often our digital interactions merge seamlessly into the physical when we’ll travel from different parts of the continent (and across one ocean) in order to meet at an agreed-upon gathering place. It’s deliciously fun, emotionally fulfilling. It’s our brave, fun new world.

Not virtual, but oh so human.