Online Friends

An internet friend (whom I’ve never met in person) sent me a message yesterday:

“…Though we’re separated by thousands of miles of land and water, I feel like you’re somebody who I’ve known, like a true friend…”

Later in the evening, our neighborhood held a ‘block party’ via Zoom (photo below). Not everyone attended, but of those who did, we laughed and told stories. One shared a poem and the other played a song. The 18 or so of us (none of whom I’ve ever met in person) all mingled for about an hour. Those living alone, and especially those quarantined for health reasons, had a chance to see faces and hear voices for the first time in weeks. Better yet, it gave us all an EXCUSE to interact with one another when we’d not done so before. As social as I am, it felt odd that all of the people on this call were folks that live within 4 blocks of us, and we’d never interacted, not in person or online. I know a ton of my neighbors, but none were on this call. Despite how difficult it is right now, with the stay-at-home and shelter-in-place declarations, to maintain any sort of social life, I’ve found laced within this ‘new interaction’, an abundance of curious opportunities. This has been quite enlightening!

This is the conclusion I’ve come to—not easily, might I add…

If we, as a society, are going to spend countless hours engaging with folks on the internet, then we ought to operate under the assumption that WE CAN MAKE DEEP CONNECTIONS THIS WAY.

Or, if we do not believe that, then we ought to give it up entirely.

Why would any intelligent person waste such a large portion of our life using online versions of communication if we knew, full well, that the end-game was at best shallow, meaningless, temporary banter? I’ve long been a skeptic of web-founded relationships, but what’s the alternative? Right now, there isn’t one.

This “Virus Life” as I’ve been calling it, is a great trial period to find out how deep we can go building relationships online — work, play, family, friends, debates, education, ideas, thoughts, news, entertainment.

Right now, we don’t have much of a choice—communicate online, or don’t communicate.

The aloneness could be a good thing for many people—TRUE.
It is not feasible/realistic that we suddenly go completely off-grid, not only for survival, but because that’s ‘what we really want’—also TRUE … otherwise we’d already have done that. We’ll need to make contact at some point, and you know what I usually say: Let’s make the best of it.

Mt. Botl — make the best of this life.

I’m climbing it every day.

My best friends, for the foreseeable future, are going to be online friends, and I’m not going to let my skepticism about the limitations digital of communication be what prevents me from building deep, lasting, meaningful relationships with them, because I believe that we can.

Cheers — raising my glass to many, but touching glasses with none.

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