The question, asked of me yesterday by a friend in the UK, brought me up with a jolt. At least, I think this person is a friend. I have never physically met her. We only know one another "virtually". I think I would like her very much in reality as well.
What brought me up with a jolt is that the question revealed she knows very little about my working life. That brought the further realisation that most people know almost nothing about my working life. Perhaps that is just as well. I could not cope with any more work.
But it also made me realise that the nature of friendships are changing. I have long suffered from the fact that I went to far too many schools to develop and maintain the close friendships that some people make at school. Indeed I have no friends from school days. I was never at any one school long enough to make a lasting friendship. It may have been different if there had been the internet available. Communication in those days was via snail mail. Long distance 'phone calls were kept as short as possible. There were still telegrams.
My time at a teacher training college was no better. I had to work to support myself. It left no time to develop friendships. All the other students were on government scholarships. The money was not great but it was far more than I had. I saw one film in the three years I was at college. That was not a good thing. I was out of the cultural loop. On the other hand I had a long lasting friendship with one of Australia's most respected writers which meant I did meet a lot of other writers during each Festival of Arts!
When I went to university it was not in my home town or even my home country. I went off to the other side of the world. Although I still had to do some work to support myself I lived in a "hall of residence" and I met people. There was a chance to have conversations over the meal table. I am still in regular contact with people from my time there - even though we had to start out with "snail mail" communications and move gradually to the internet. Living together we grew to know one another rather better than we otherwise might.
I know other people here of course. Some of them are friends. We all tend to lead fairly busy lives. Our meetings tend to be pre-arranged and on regular dates in the calendar. They are not of the casual "meet for coffee" or "go to a film" spur of the moment type friendships. Our individual responsibilities for other people make that difficult - although the others seem to have done that sort of thing when young.
But the internet is a way of keeping up with them between pre-arranged meetings. It is a way of keeping up with a few old friends from the past and virtual friends that I may one day meet. My virtual friends may find out about "communication boards" then. In the meantime we will continue to communicate on the biggest communication board of all.