Last week during a conversation with a dear friend of mine I made the offhand comment that I didn’t want to be someone they couldn’t mention in polite company. They responded immediately, “No worries. I talk about you all the time.”
I was taken aback, stammered a bit to myself as I thought of how to respond to this revelation as my mind was reeling with information that was suddenly new and different from anything else I’d ever experience.
You see, my dear friend is someone I’ve been chatting with for over seven years now and I’ve yet to meet them in person. My response of “You do?” would have been squeaked out had they been in the flesh before me instead of punched into my phone.
Of course, this got me wondering: How often do friends, those met online or not (though, more specifically those met online) come up in conversation if mentioning them would be pertinent to the topic being discussed?
So Why The Weirdness?
I approached two other long-time friends with whom I’ve chatted for over 15 years (let us remember that the Internet has been around for the masses since at least 1994), and have met in person, with the question of whether or not they talk about their “Internet friends”? I was curious if these two people that I admire and for whom I have affection openly spoke about friendships they developed online.
Results of my Officially Unofficial Poll? They did, but seldom.
Why? Because a lot of people wouldn’t understand and there would be too many questions.
Where do I stand on the topic?
I do not draw distinction between people I consider friends whether I’ve met them online or in person for anything other than clarifying context, such as the case with this post. Chatting online seemed to me a natural transition from the hand-written pen pal letter relationships that I had in grade- and middle-schools. In fact, many of my closest friendships are online, most likely because I’m not being judged upon appearance and my responses don’t have to be “shot from the hip”.
My normal day-to-day conversation with Mr. Muse typically has a mention of at least one, if not more, friend with whom I’ve chatted or texted with that day. I’ve never been what I called “a closet chatter”. Mr. Muse was fully aware of my online chatting when we started dating and it wasn’t expected to stop after we got married.
I speak of my online friends in the same capacity as I would anyone else I consider a friend. It’s not taboo or something to be ashamed of – if we’re friends, we’re friends.
So why was I taken aback?
I’ve been chatting for over 20 years and for the first time in all of that time, someone who I considered a dear companion disclosed, without prompting, that I was not “unmentionable”. My existence was acknowledged, and even admitted that I was someone in the great unknown of the Internet, and yet – I mattered and they didn’t hide it.
I puzzled this new information to Mr. Muse, astounded as I was, and he pointed out that for the first time I was friends with someone who wasn’t trying to hide their online activity from their friends or family. Sadly, closet chatters appear to be the standard online. People who are afraid of getting caught by friends or family for socializing online. This was also seconded by DazyLady. I suddenly was faced with the reality that there was another person out there in the “great unknown Internet” who treated people the same as I do.
It has never occurred to me that because I may have met someone in an online venue that their value as a friend, let alone a person, would be less than if I’d say, run into them at a donut shop. And yet, I have friends who have developed great working friendships with people at their jobs whom they have never met in person – only spoken to over the phone, who roll their eyes at mention of friends made in chat rooms. To me it’s all one and the same.
And so… now what?
Now? After a week of thinking about how cool it is that someone I’m friends with online actually discusses me the same way I discuss them, I’m both happy and a bit sad. I’m happy for the acknowledgement and I’m sad that A) it’s taken this long, and B) there are still people who I consider friends for whom I will always remain “unmentionable”.
So, my ideological bubble that all things were equal has been burst. But that’s okay. Honestly, it allows me to focus on those people for whom I do exist and matter. The people who put forth the effort. It’ll also allow me to reevaluate those other relationships that by all appearances do not matter nearly as much to the other people.
As as for people wondering if they are “unmentionable”? Oh no, if we have a good conversation – I talk about it. Here, on Facebook, on Twitter, in person – it’s all conversation fodder. You exist and you matter.
So, how about you? To you, are people online “unmentionable”? Do you bring up conversations from online, be they in Facebook, Twitter, chat rooms or otherwise? Why or why not?
Conversations with others both in-person and online often, if pertinent to the conversation, includes bits and pieces from conversations I’ve had with other friends.
Agreed – and I should have clarified that if mentioning someone is pertinent to the conversation – then I mention them. LOL If I went around just talking about people willy-nilly that’d just be uncouth!
You know, I’m someone who considers “Internet friends” as nothing other than “friends.” So, if there’s someone what I’ve been chatting with for awhile, that I feel that I “actually know,” well, I’ll talk about them, just as I would talk about my next door neighbor.
I’ll admit that I’d have been FREAKED, in the early days of chatting, but that’s changed. If I bring up an “internet friend” to certain family members, they get all weirded out when they realize that I’ve never actually met the person, face-to-face . . . and, when I do meet someone “from the internet” face-to-face, I’ve been known to get a random text from a crazy aunt “txt 9 if you need me to call and make an emergency to get you out of there”. But, if I’ve been chatting with someone for awhile, and I’m chatting with someone else, and there’s a clear parallel, I wouldn’t even think twice about mentioning the unmentionable.
Thank you! I’ve a good friend, she’s like a sister, who has wrinkled her nose up at the mention of “internet friends” – and yet, she talks about people from her job with whom she’s spoken to on the phone for years and has never met – referring to them as her “friends”. I haven’t pointed out that her situation is any different than mine, but yet – the phone seems to get more respect. Odd, no?
I’ve had friends from the internet stop by my house for meals as they passed through Wisconsin. Another actually picked me up from the airport when I traveled to Baltimore for a job years ago and we spent the whole day sight-seeing. I’ve met people from Twitter who are in the Madison area for lunch. And the thing is, I do the same for meeting these people as I would anyone else; I get their name, phone number, email, where we’re meeting, what time we’re meeting, etc., and then I leave it in a written note AND emailed to Mr. Muse. I’d expect no less from someone else meeting me. Safety first!
I mention you quite often to models I work with. You’re someone who was willing to provide advice to a young model that was on her way to getting in trouble. She was being very unsafe. Despite the fact she never reached out to you, the fact you were willing to help a complete stranger speaks volumes. I hope by sharing that story, others will model your “lead by example”.
Thank you, Dave! I appreciate your vote of confidence, truly. I’ve had a few photographers attempt to have young ladies who model contact me – and I can think of only one who did and basically rolled her eyes at what I had to tell her (according to the photographer who referred her). That old adage “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”, seems to apply.
I talk about my online friends pretty often. Especially ones I have met, but not all. I chalk it up to not getting out much. Most of my friends have moved away for jobs or grad school, so the consistent ones I talk to are online. And I value each of their opinions and advice and overall friendship just as much as the ones I went to school with.
I think that’s a great way to put it: “the consistent ones”. For the everyday, face-to-face interactions outside of the office, I have a small group of friends who, while we don’t chat on the phone or email every day, we all tend to email back-and-forth a few days a week. We make plans to meet out for dinner here-or-there, go camping, go to someone’s house for dinner and games, etc. We have “campfire philosophy” discussions around the campfire or the dining table.
While impromptu dinners are lacking with those I know from online, to reiterate what John has said, if there are people I truly feel that I know – “I will talk about them as I would my next door neighbor”. Why? Because my time with those people is still spent in deep discussion having “campfire philosophy” chats, discussing music and the lyrics thereof and maybe even playing games online. One person, who is no longer in my life, and I would spent hours playing the equivalent of Scrabble in Yahoo! Games: Literati. Another friend and I would play Pool. So, while we never bonded over breaking bread, we had things we did together that created an equally deep and meaningful bond.