I’ve been doing a fair amount of thinking about what it means to blog, lately, for a variety of reasons. I’ve said many times that an unexpected benefit has been finding new friends in this community. In a way, online friends are the ideal kind of friend for me. With the time delay inherent in writing a post, publishing a post, making comments, and responding to comments, it fits the way I think and react. 🙂
Of course there is no ultimate reality to the concept of “time” at all. We tend to think of it as a constant, but, for someone researching theoretical physics, it is simply a mental construct we’ve invented to interact as beings in physical reality. Time, in essence, “keeps everything from happening at once.”
I tend to feel most “me” when I have a role to play in a group, or, at the opposite side of the spectrum in one-on-one conversations. (I’ve always liked playing basketball one-on-one best as well.) 😉 Additionally, I don’t much like to discuss current events (unless they have something to do with science) or politics (unless it has something to do with science), so “party talk” is not my thing. I’m here on this planet to explore ideas, keeping in mind that “thoughts are things”.
So, blogging has felt like a good community for me as we’re interacting almost totally at the idea level, even within the friendships I’ve found. No good friendship sustains itself, however, without emotions getting involved at some point. I’ve watched a lot of emotion flung about online, and while I’m all for people having an outlet; a place to explore and deal with feelings, it seems prudent to take a step back and allow that time-delay element to come into play before posting a reaction.
Most people online, and locally, want to be heard, (or in online’s case, “read”) not advised. It is human nature to try to “fix” things for people, to make them “all better”. While this can sometimes be problematic in “real life”, in the online world it feels even more precarious. No matter how much we’ve read another’s blog, or emailed them, or IM’d them, there is still a lot of background in their personal lives we may not know, and haven’t been able to observe.
It seems that some, myself included, can rush to judgment, or advice, or to emoting themselves, based on the content of one post! While it’s fine to respond to a particular post, if the poster is encouraging comments, it’s not as fine, at least to me, to read into a post or an email things that just aren’t there, that may be emotional triggers for us. If we were with the person, in person, it might be a good idea to offer advice (and in my opinion, only if asked, even then), but I would hope this would come from some knowledge of the individual, or careful questioning of a newer acquaintance—much of which there simply hasn’t been time for in blog relationships.
I’m the first to say that online friendships are as real as local ones. Maybe it’s just me (probably is, in fact), but it takes me a good deal of time to consider someone a friend in my personal life. It may take even longer online, because we are exposed to just some aspects of a person, not the totality that is them. Every person and every relationship has its own individual pattern, but, generally speaking, I’m coming to think it may take approximately twice as long to see an online friend as a whole and complete entity; to imagine them having a full and complete life even when they’re not here with me in bloggieland! 😉
And, ironically, the online life seems to move much faster; to have its own compressed rate of interaction. When someone who generally posts regularly doesn’t post for three days, I sometimes wonder if they are OK; if something has happened to them. With a real life friend I wouldn’t dream of thinking such a thing after not hearing from them in three days, or eight, or two months…I just figure they’re off “doing their life”, as I am “doing mine”.
The weird thing about online acquaintances is, when I turn off my computer, you all go away. It’s not that I don’t think about you; I do. I’ll remember that blog friend X is going to a concert, or starting a new job, or just got a new pet. I’ll wonder how all that is going, just as I would with a local friend. I jut don’t have the same “gone away” feeling about people I know in person, even if I don’t see them for a long time. They leave whatever space we’ve occupied together for a length of time, but their consciousness is not shut off from my perception. This apparent dichotomy actually bothers me a little bit, and therefore I want to give it a “deep think”.
On the other hand, in another way, I’m much more aware, daily, even hourly sometimes, of online buddies, than I am of those I know in flesh and bone, and I’ve caught myself saying “I want to turn the computer on and see how everyone’s doing.” As if you all live in there—the CPU, or the monitor, or where? (You don’t, do you? Live in my computer, I mean?) And, what if I don’t have access to the Internet for a while? Do you cease to exist? Do I? We have no other way to communicate (in most cases), so how long would it take for you and I to start losing a sense of the reality of the other? 😕
I realize this may all sound melancholy (I’m in a pensive mood), and I don’t want to give offense. To anyone reading this I’ve called my friend, or said you were important to me, I want you to know I meant that, sincerely. If I turned on the computer one day, and you weren’t in there, I’d miss you terribly! And of course I know you are real people, with real lives, somewhere. It’s a physical act to type on a keyboard, or speak into a microphone, or however else we may compose these posts. All I have, to know you are there, and that I have been here (in cyberspace) is code; pixels; the words and images of an intangible web. It doesn’t make you or I any the less valuable for that.