Friendships, reality, perceptions and a guy named Bill.

Are online friendships “real”? Is anything really real? It all comes down to perception. Don’t we invent our own reality? Does absolute reality exist? Isn’t matter completely invisible? Isn’t our reality defined by our sense perception? If reality is invisible, and we give it form; is it real? What does it all mean? I haven’t got a clue. I’m paging the great Dr. Mark Kingwell, philosopher on call.

Let’s take the word “real” out of the equation and focus on what friendship means. (Perception)

What constitutes a friend? It boils down to an individual’s needs. For myself, I am not a people person. I don’t need a constant physical presence to feel fulfilled. To me, a friend is someone who gives emotional support, who is there to listen and, with whom I can be myself. I choose quality over quantity. I have many associates but few friends. I’m very selective with whom I open up to. Some of my friends I have yet to meet in “real life”. However, I have spent countless hours on the phone with them. I’m always there to lend an ear. I support their projects. If they needed me, I would be there. We share our secrets, our woes, our highs and lows ((there second nature to me now) Friends are a source of growth and enrichment. Other friendships have started online and ended up offline. I’ve been really blessed. I’ve met some truly amazing people. There’s a closeness there that supersedes the physical.

In our contemporary society, making friends online is the new norm. Social media has changed the landscape of friendship. The ease now in which we can keep in touch is incredible. What I do online and offline are completely interwoven. Intimacy now develops in both the physical and online realms, often crossing freely between the two. The beauty of online friendships lies in their mutability in my purse, on my screen, in the comfort of my home. As time goes on, I think the distinction between on- and offline friendships will dissipate. That doesn’t mean that we are doom to a life, of tweets and emails. It simply means that the person we meet in the virtual realm is no longer a stranger, but someone we know and trust.

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The Tangled Web-My Journey to the Center of the Internet

My darling friend Jane wrote a web log about her experiences on the internet last week. It is a must read.  You can find it here. 

 

http://jerphila.wordpress.com/

 

Her musings have inspired me to write about my own internet saga.  Let me set the stage for you.  The year was 1999 and I was still very much a baby, at least emotionally. You see, I had always led a cloistered and sheltered life, a relativity happy life. Blessed in many ways. . It’s as if I had stepped right out of an Austen novel However, this was a difficult year for me, the hardest of my life in fact. This was the year I walked straight into a Bronte narrative, Emily’s not Charlotte’s.  I was struggling both emotionally and physically. My situation made me a hot mess of crazy (as oppose to my usual quirky mess of nutty) My emotions were all over the place and the quarter life crisis was in full swing.  Good times, y’all.

 Have I set this up enough? Do you get the picture? Imagine “All About Eve” meets “Brian’s Song”. It was the year of my discontent that I discovered the web and all its mysteries. I was like a kid in a candy store, a very innocent and fragile kid.  The internet opened up a whole new world for me and I met some really interesting characters. One would become a lifelong friend and to this day is like a sister to me. The other came into my life for a season to guide and teach me some valuable lessons about myself and the world at large. Lessons that took awhile to take hold, I’m nothing if not stubborn. This person taught me to be real with myself, to be honest.  They helped me find parts that were lost, they showed me parts I had hidden away, they exposed things I did not wish to look at yet needed to and they encouraged me to believe in myself.  Through their support, I learned to stand on my own two feet and found my voice. I learned I had more courage than I thought and discovered an inner strength I never knew I possessed. I learned to appreciate what I have and to live life to the fullest with no regrets, no excuses and no looking back. They also taught me how to let go of fear, guilt, anger, and the hot mess crazy side of myself. On a trivial note, it was from them that I acquired my love for “The Princess Bride”

 

Both these people were my anchors and life lines. They helped me reconnect with my authentic self and discover new levels and depths to my personality. Of course they had to put up with a lot of drama and angst too.  I will forever be grateful for their support. I will always remember their kindness and how they were a catalyst for major changes in my life. All for the better. 

 

It was also through the internet that I met my friends, Jane, Niles, and Mr. Lovely himself Colin. These relationships have morphed into real life. What a blessing.  I am forever indebted to Jane for always being a sounding board, my soul sister and partner in crime. She makes me laugh and amazes me with her tenacity and spunk. She’s beautiful inside and out and the ying to my yang. Niles is my brother from another mother and my eternal introverted bibliophile buddy. He’s a quiet, gentle soul full of knowledge and kindness. Then there Colin he is my mentor and a myriad of the mystic and profound. It is through him that I have learned so much about humanity.  He inspired me to become an advocate, to do more, expect more and be more. Of course there was also the eccentric and magnetic Dr. Suglia but that’s a blog in and of itself.

 

I suppose with any good, there is always the bad. Sometimes the angels become the demons. I have had my fair share of bad experiences on-line. These have occurred over the last few years. I had a cyber stalker. This person created a fake page and used my name and pictures. They wrote horrible things on it. They also tormented my mother. Nobody messes with my mama. GRR! It was absurd and ridiculous. Thankfully, we had a good friend who was able to help us deal with the situation and put an end to it.

I have also come across a few users who prey on kindness. You know the type of people who have an agenda and seek you out to use and then discard. They suck you into their twisted game of deception all under the guise of friendship. Scamming and scheming is all they know.  These people are masters of deception, wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They appear sweet and unassuming but much like the holly at Christmas they are poison They leave behind only carnage in their wake.   They take hot crazy mess to a whole new and terrifying level.

My Granny always taught me to make sunshine out of rain. In some ways even the negatives are positives because through these experiences I have become more enlightened. I’m not the same gullible, sheltered waif I once was. My eyes are wide open. The girl that longed to see the best in people is still alive in me.  I hope I never lose touch with her, her childlike exuberant sustains me. She’s just older, wiser and more in tune with the ways of the world.

I’ll end my saga by saying the internet is a paradox full of wonder and lackluster. It can be the great equalizer and the great enabler.  I love it tremendously and abhor it whole heartily.  It will never take the place of reading a good book, a walk in the sunshine, a glass of sweet tea, traveling the globe, a warm hug, or spending time with those we love. But, it can be a place to connect, communicate, learn, create advocate and be entertained.

Oh and watch adorable cat videos. Meow!

 

 -The End