I write this post for those who don’t “get it”.
There are certain aspects of my life my husband doesn’t “get”:
- Spending hours “talking” via typing to another person whom I’ve only “met” online.
All of these add up to a “waste of time”, stealing me from my family.
A few weeks ago as I wrote a story about my discovery of the internet, an epiphany popped.
To him and many others, the internet equals pure entertainment: they surf websites, watch movies, perhaps even dabble in social media with Facebook to keep in touch with old friends.
They don’t use it to find new people, only to reconnect with the old.
These people, like my husband, don’t “get” why others such as myself seek out strangers to bond with.
We are geeks seeking someone with common interests.
We are writers searching for support, criticism, and knowledge.
We are the parents doubting our skills and sanity as our children find new buttons to push.
We are lacking something in our “real” lives.
Outlets like blogs, writing forums, and Twitter introduce us to others who think and feel as we do.
I first learned to form connections in cyberspace in my tweens.
At 14, I was alone and isolated. I won’t delve into the psychological battering I suffered, but it left me with two things: my imagination and the internet.
AOL didn’t yet exist when my parents signed up for a service called Prodigy. It had news, games, and more importantly, a Message Board System. Here you could post under topics and categories you were interested in, finding other like-minded individuals.
Suddenly, I was no longer alone.
I found people who liked the same music I did, who loved the same movies.
Some of them “clicked”.
We emailed a bit, but sparingly – only 30 free emails were allowed a month for the entire family account.
Relationships deepened by exchanging addresses, old school snail mail necessary during the internet infancy.
Phone numbers also traded hands. In the days before cell phones (at least affordable ones smaller than a breadbox), we were at the mercy of Ma Bell. I befriended many west coasters, because I could call them after 11 PM when the long distance rates dropped.
One month, my parents had a $300 phone bill, even with my “call during the cheapest time” diligence.
These friendships discovered online banished the isolation surrounding me. They kept me going, even content, during a very rough period of adolescence.
They were no less real to me than face-to-face to friendships.
If anything, we forged bonds faster, proving the ease of pouring your heart out to someone who knew none of the people you spoke of, carrying no preconceived opinions.
Eight years ago I relocated halfway across the country. I left behind all of my family, friends, and found myself in the state of Texas.
It was hot, filled with strange bugs, and the home of fire ants. The only person I knew was my husband.
Again, I was isolated. Alone.
Again, I reached out through the internet.
It clung to the ties of old friendships, now separated by long distance.
It located others thought lost.
It unearthed new ones.
Months passed before any “real life” friendships formed at my new home.
It took time. Then, one by one, I collected them. I wasn’t the only one living miles away from family. Most of my new friends were just as isolated, and we formed “satellite families”. We supported each other by filling the holes our relatives could not.
Yet, part of me refused to be satisfied.
It screamed to write.
To join others shouting to be heard through their words.
Suddenly, long lost “twins” dropped from the sky.
They were me…. only not.
They lived my life, cried in frustration, and reached for others through their words.
Mothers and fathers who loved their children, but needed something for themselves.
People who didn’t stamp me crazy when I typed of channeling characters from my head onto the screen – because I had no power over how my own creations unfolded.
People who understood me: my daily trials, joys, and dreams.
No matter how many times I’ve explained “the need to write” to my husband, he fails to truly comprehend.
He can support me.
He can inspire me.
But without the call himself, I doubt he will ever truly feel the power writing wields.
The same holds true with online friendships. To him, they aren’t “real”.
He is real.
My kids are real.
Our local friends are real.
But the soul sister I found who lives in Canada?
A time suck, not a friendship.
I write this post for those who don’t “get it”.
To me, and many others, our online friendships are real, sometimes stronger than those surrounding us “in real life”.
Because these are people we bonded with over the possible millions.
We chose these people. They are not friendships of forced circumstances – be it school, geography, or a job.
They support us no less, just differently.
Sometimes, fate twists, and they transform into “real life” friends.
Why would they be any less valid seconds before meeting?
Do not belittle those we only communicate with online.
They are our friends.
You will anger us with your closed mind and derision.
You will force us to defend those we hold dear, as we would any true friend.
You haven’t met them, discounting their existence, but it paints them no less real.
Ask about them, as you would any other friend.
“How did you meet?”
“What do you talk about?”
“Why are you laughing hysterically at your laptop?”
As the curtain lifts, these mythical friends no longer faceless, hopefully you will see their value.
Because they are real.
If this spoke to you, please share it with others.
Did this help you understand why your spouse/child/friend disappears onto their computer?
Do you know someone who doesn’t “get it”?
When and why did you first reach out online?
I’d love to hear your story.