My mum has a pen pal in Paris to whom she has been writing for many many years, since her youth. Over the years they have met in real life and maintained a long distance friendship, if you will. Although they still write to each other snail mail style, they also keep in touch digitally now too. Yet in a conversation where I mentioned a friend of mine that my mother had not met she seemed confused.
I told her this was my online friend, somewhat like a pen pal and she said “I didn’t know you had a pen pal?” You know what? That is something I love about my online friends. They are not connected to anyone I know in my life. They are not involved in any of the domestic duties, politics or other nitty gritty details of my life. What they are is there for me when I need to talk to someone. They have this uncanny ability to be impartial because they are somewhat removed from the situation.
They give me endless support, and advice I can count on because as the end of the day, they aren’t personally invested in the outcome. They truly just want me to be happy, and I do the same for them. I also feel there is less pressure in online friendships. Although these are women I consider close friends, due to the distances and time differences, there is much more leeway for our separate lives to continue on. I wont be upset if I don’t hear back straight away, and they don’t get upset if I forgot to mention an important but insignificant detail in real time.
We tell each other what we want the other to know. We discuss our lives, but moreso we discuss our emotions and the situations we want to discuss. I feel like we are able to be more personal, strangely, because of the less personal nature of our connection. One one level, these women are strangers, and yet on another level I feel we may know each other better than any of the people actually physically present in our lives.
And even better perhaps, than the way my mother met her pen pal way back when, I have met these women on forums where we know we have something important in common. While most people in our lives may not share this interest or experience, we know we can count on someone to really hear and understand us on important issues close to our hearts.
They say when you are behind a screen you have the ability to be whoever you want to be, but I feel like these women are bravely being more themselves with me than they are in their real lives. Often with technology these days, although we have never met, I am familiar with the names and faces of their nearest and dearest, as they are with mine, and because we don’t catch up in person, there tends to be an ongoing conversation more than “catch up’s” per se, which is a nice quirk that can probably only really exist in the online context.
There are times when these women are the first ones I turn to, and I know they reciprocate that. One of these women has gone out of her way to help me source things from her homeland that I was unable to get for myself, and has even sent me a care package! Her friendship is a gift…. The type that keeps on giving!
Some people say that online friends are not REAL friends, but I beg to differ. These women have added immeasurable value to my life. While I do know there is much to be said for spending real quality time with friends, and we have often commented that we wish we lived closer, our virtual coffee dates are just as satisfying, and even better nobody has to leave the house or get dressed and we can chat whenever we have the time! Everybody wins! I vow to meet these ladies in person one of these days, and I look forward to it too.
Thanks for being in my life ladies! You know who you are! You are like angels, almost literally because I have never laid eyes on you and you have helped me through some big issues. Thank you for the time and effort it takes you to keep up our conversations, for sharing the best and the worst of yourselves with me and for being open to this online friendship with someone on the other side of the world! I’m so glad I met you.
Your Best Friend ForNever