June 21 2008

When Worlds Collide

online friendsAs part of the nature of the AnimeUSA business, we end up doing 26 conventions around the country each year. We go in, set up for the weekend, sell for 3 days, pack up and do it all over again.  As we currently work it, it is my parents who go out to the conventions as they both work for me, and I stay back at the office as I am the only one who knows how to work the websites.

On this particular weekend, that brought them within just a short drive of the diabolical Miss M that I mention from time-to-time here on the site.  See, this is the part about M I have not really ever pointed out to the readers of my site in that M and I have never met in person.  We met back in February of 2007 on a message board and hit it off in moments of the first time we talked.  Now, nearly a year and a half later, I actually consider M my best friend, but I tend not to discuss this because of the nature of how we met.  As if I don’t have enough strikes against me already with everyone thinking I’m a hermit!

Since they were in such close proximity to each other, M trekked over to the convention center and met up with my parents for dinner.  Mind you, M and I talk on the phone so frequently that she has talked to both of them just in the course of them answering the phone when I’m not around.  So, it wasn’t a completely cold meeting, but still odd that my parents have now met her in person while I still have not had the opportunity.

She and I have tried numerous times to meet up in person, but something inevitably gets in our way as adult responsibilities are want to do.  We think we finally have a safe date picked out for later this year, but we don’t want to jinx it, so I’ll just keep it to myself for now.

Why do I share all of this with you?  Well, I think it’s time people realize that as we live more of our lives online, that virtual friendships are going to become more common.  I have been on the Web since 1986, and have had many cyberspce only friendships over the years, but there seems to be a shift in them: while in the past they seemed to be only someone you would chat with on an aquitannce level, they seem to becoming more intense.  As we do everything online, from blogging like this, sharing videos on sites like YouTube, posting pictures on Flickr and so on, it is becomeing easier to let people become incorporated into your life, and the lines between virtual in real life friendships is blurring more and more.  All that is missing is that face-to-face element, but even that is disappearing with free video chatting capabilities being built into more applications.

Do I think will ever go completely virtual?  Of course not.  I think in 99.9% of cases, friendships forged in real life will always be tend to be stronger, but there will be the rare cases where friends made in an online environment can be as strong, if not stronger.  Sure there are chances for people to fib about themselves, be it their appearance or just making up facts about their life, but in general I think online cuts out some of the malarkey.  You don’t tend to hide as much because for the most part the person is faceless to you and it’s not worth exerting the effort to type it out.  There is also the chance to guard those parts of yourself you don’t want to share with others, but that is for everyone to judge personally if it is a positive or a negative aspect.

I will probably always prefer making friends in person, I can’t see that ever going away, but you do end up with those rare instances where you meet someone online that the only thing that really makes it different from a real life friendship is the distance.  Personally I find the distance interesting at times because it can allow you to get a taste of other cultures depending on where they are from.  I have had online friends from Mexico, England, Brazil, India, Japan and several other countries, and I have learned things about each of their cultures that I probably would have never known otherwise.  Not all of them were or are strong friendships, but it is still interesting to learn about how they view the world.  From M, I just learn how to formulate diabocal plans to take over the world… apparently it has a lot to do with designer shoes…

So what say all of you, dear readers?  Have you met any online friends you think will be life long friends?  Are they people you just “hang” with while your online?  Do you avoid talking with people online all together?  How do you say the nature of friendships changing in this digital age?

By the way, in case you were all wondering why she is simply known as “M”, well, if you were an evil genius, would you want everyone knowing your name?  Although, in her case, I know she just has managed to keep her name out of every search engine, so who am I to ruin her track record?

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