Sunday, 20 November 2011

Meeting people

over the internet without ever physically meeting them at all is a curious experience. I am not talking here about introduction services or internet dating or any of those social connection sites that I have never explored but "meeting" people in other ways.
I have been thinking about this because I noticed that several more people have started to "follow" me. Hello. I tend to leave my followers alone (unless they prowl in with a comment) although I do go and read their blogs if they interest me. I am not ignoring you - if I was I would not write the blog - but prowling after all of you every day is beyond me. I have other reading and writing to do as well.
I have physically met two of my followers but the rest of you are only known to me through the ether. I often wonder what you would be like in real life. I know what some of you look like because there are photographs on your blogs or your websites. (One day I may learn how to do that here but I write words. I do not take photographs.)
Recently someone, who rarely uses the internet, asked me, "How can you be friends with people you have never met? You can't possibly know what they are really like."
Does that have to stop me being friends? I know what the internet persona of someone is like. If they write well then I feel I have some idea of what they are like in physical life as well.
I have been writing to a friend in the United States for almost as long as I have had regular access to e-mail. I spoke of her the other day and said she is dying. Her daughter sent a message this morning and said it will not be very long now. All I can do now is send daily messages which her daughter reads to her. And yes, she is a friend. She is such a close friend that we regard each other almost as sisters. We know a great deal about each other. I have a very strong sense of what she is like and I will miss her strong presence in my life.
There are other people I know only through the internet as well and yet I feel I have a strong sense of what they are like. Would we be friends if we were able to make regular physical contact? Yes, I think some of us would be friends. Some of us would continue to be acquaintances and yes, I might be mistaken about some of them. This must also be true about the way they feel about me.
Before e-mail and the internet there were of course letters. People had "pen pals". They took more effort, especially for someone like me who finds the physical act of putting anything on paper difficult. I suspect that many people started out with pen pals and lost them. There was not the immediacy of reply there can be now. My mother had several "pen pals". Writing was physically easy for her. She had excellent handwriting. The pen (she always used a fountain pen) moved smoothly across the page. The women she wrote to had similar writing. They all wrote to each other on a regular basis. My godmother still writes to me. She is well over 90 now and still cannot spell (although she still reads voraciously). She is almost the last of the letter writers however. Oh yes, I know about letter writing being a lost art.
But meeting people over the internet can result in friendships, lasting friendships because of common interests. Like any other friendships they require nurturing and concern for others. And yes, you can know people well enough to know you want to be friends without ever physically meeting them.


widdershins said...


Anonymous said...

I think the whole way we communicate has changed since the arrival of cheap and easy-to-use mobile phones.

In an instant, pictures can be flashed around the world, to virtually everyone who can receive them directly or who can buy a paper or see tv, not only to rich and powerful people, but to the person in the street or the paddy field or on the rubbish heap. Would men have gone as willingly to WWI if they could see what awaited them?

We can see that foreigners are very like us - and may be more likely to feel empathy with them.

But getting true and reliable information on which to make judgments is as hard as ever. More people now have the ability to spread their lying or misleading message quickly and globally.

I find it hard to judge the information I get. For example, we get weekly "news" on what is good for our health through the papers. It is often unattributed, wrong, misinterpreted, and likely to be contradicted in a couple of weeks time.

Still, I think it a wonderful, cohesive thing if ordinary people can make good friends (or even just aquaintances, or even just keep a watch on others' comments) through "meeting" via the computer. I hope it will increase global friendliness and reduce distrust and emnity.