A new blogger, whose posts I've come to enjoy, wrote yesterday of her realization that blogging does not provide the meaningful interactions with people she was hoping to find when she began a few months ago. She is someone who needs to have personal conversations face to face, she says, noting that she felt the need to "sit down over a cup of coffee" and really talk to the people who were reading her words and leaving comments on her posts. I certainly respect that, though I will her miss her quirky and often poignant take on motherhood and marriage and the stuff of life. After reading her farewell post this morning, I started thinking about some of the other blogging friends who have passed through my life for a few months, maybe even years, at a time. People with whom I'd developed a "relationship" via the written word, people whom I considered friends, although just not the kind you can meet at the neighborhood java joint for a cup of coffee.
Are those relationships really less real because they aren't conducted face to face? It's true that being unable to talk in person also means being unable to "be there" for someone in all the physical ways we consider important in true friendship. You can't take homemade soup to her house when she's sick, pick up her kids from school when she gets stuck at work, be a buffer between she and her mother in law at her annual holiday open house.
A few weeks ago I re-connected with a friend I hadn't spoken with in over 20 years. Our children attended grade school together for about three years, and we became friends while working together on various school related projects. I was delighted that we found our way back to each other (via Facebook, of course, the great social data base.) When I walked into the restaurant where we had arranged to meet, I recognized her immediately, and my mind was flooded with memories of staying late at the school, putting up display boards, creating newsletters and mailings, going out for coffee after drop-offs in the morning. I had a huge cache of physical memories to call upon, memories that added great meaning to our reunion two decades later.
So I wondered - would I be able to have the same meaningful reunion with bloggers whom I had interacted with for that period of time? Truthfully, probably not. The depth of our connection wasn't that great.
That isn't to say that a deep personal connection can't be formed through written communication. But you must be a person who is extremely comfortable expressing themselves through the written word. My son and daughter in law conducted their entire courtship via e-mail. This was almost 15 years ago, before Skype, and video cameras, and - yes!- even before Facebook. They grew to know and love each other through pages and pages of voluminous e-mails.
Obviously, the friendships we form in casual online connections aren't that developed or that strong. I do think most times it takes a personal connection to create the kind of lasting bonds that characterize true friendship. I have met a few bloggers in person, and there are others I long to meet as well, people who, when I read their posts, I would love to sit down and share coffee with them, go for a walk by the river with them, settle into their front porch swing with a glass of wine. So I understand what Shelva meant yesterday about needing the deeper connection that personal interaction brings.
Still, I enjoy the connection I have with my blogging friends. It's not completely real in every sense of the word, but there is a real sense of caring, encouragement, and support which is clearly communicated in each comment, blog post, or follow up e-mail.
That makes it real enough to matter to me.
How about you? Do you feel the need to make it real with your blogging friends? Or are you happy with the tangential online connection?