I've been thinking today about on-line friendships, their meaning, and how this new form of relationship has grown to be an accepted mainstream form of bonding and communication. I now have friends whom I have encountered on-line---mostly through blog-related connections, apparently---and I'm wondering if there has been anything interesting or intriguing written about this new form of human relations.
Obviously, in this post-modern world where information has become a medium in and of itself, these relationships have taken on meaning and depth, wherein geographically disparate individuals can share personal and intimate information within the non-physical space of the Web. I was discussing this with a friend today and she noted that some people downplay the "reality" of relationships that occur only in the context of cyber-space, with the individuals never hearing one another's voice or speaking face-to-face. While I agree that a tete-a-tete is crucial for friendships in the concrete day-to-day sense, relationships developed and then nurtured in the digital world can still evoke emotion and feelings of loyalty, affection, concern, anguish, rejection, etc. Getting to know another human through the medium of the printed word (and perhaps augmented by photographs) wherein the individuals share intimately about their lives, dreams and daily observations, can be a very satisfying and growthful experience. When a beloved fellow blogger is having a particularly difficult day or shares a painful moment of their lives, there are often outpourings of emotion and support that are quite profound to behold. This may not be the intimacy of two friends sharing secrets over a cup of tea, but there is nothing "unreal" about the caring that occurs between electronically connected people. We have all heard stories of those who fall in love by email.
There are fellow bloggers whose sites I visit on a regular basis, and we thoughtfully post comments on one another's blogs regularly. A few of those individuals have also become email friends, increasing the contact and intimacy through private communicaton out of the public arena of the "comments" section of a blog. I was once warned that accepting comments on my blog might become a burden wherein I would feel obliged to respond to comments, but now I clearly see that the comments section is where the real heart of the site can live and breathe: hearing others' reactions to my writing---and the thought process that those comments can engender---is an intrinsic part of the blogging process for me.
If any of you have found interesting articles about on-line friendships and the whole notion of this relatively new paradigm of human relationships, please leave a comment. I would also be very happy to hear others' experiences of such relationships. My cyber-friends are now a part of my "social atom", and the richness which they add to my life cannot be measured based upon outmoded definitions of relationship. Friendship---in all its forms---is the stuff of life.