Thursday, September 5, 2013

Developing Friendships Behind the Computer Screen

Something has been weighing heavily on my mind these days. It is how life often works though. You are thrown into situations that forces you to do some introspective work. Sometimes, you get answers, and sometimes, you don't get an answer at all. You have to figure out what is the best for yourself, and go from there. It is all part of having a human experience; to allow emotions untangle themselves in order to find answers, and go through it. I am not the to shy away from my internal turmoil. I journal. I write. I talk. I find it easier to allow feelings come through, process them, and brush my hands off in order to move on to the next situation. Of course, one of the biggest things that helps one to get through uncertainty, the turmoil, and struggles is friends. Friends have a way of keeping you anchored, to propel you through the obstacles, and force you to face your own blockages that you have set up for yourself. Yes, friendships are wonderful especially when you find people that you trust.

In today's time and age, we have social networking; blogging, twitter, instagram, & Facebook, to name a few, that allows an ease of access to connect with different people from all parts of the country, and even the world. The definition of a friendship has changed, and evolved from twenty years ago when social networking did not exist yet. 

I am a member of several online mommy groups; women come from different corners of the country or even the world come together to discuss life, motherhood, and raising children. Then there's also blogging. I have been blogging for several years, and met so many amazing people in the community. It is comforting to relate to someone else who knows exactly what you are going through. It is even better when you finally meet someone, and says, "You too?!" Despite not knowing some of my friends in person, I have forged friendships with other mothers. We talk outside the mommy groups; texting, emails, and instant messaging. I have come to know them as well as they know me. I am comfortable enough to call them my friends.


Recently, in one of the groups; a situation revealed that having an online friendship comes with its risks, and people got hurt. It made me think. How far would you really trust an online friend, whom you have never met in person? 

Is an internet friend any different than a real life friend? Honestly, I don't think so. People can hide things as much as an internet friend can. An argument can be made that internet is not always a forthright place, and it is easier to come across as someone that you are not. I digress. It is easy to pluck dishonest ones among the honest ones given time, and patience. More often than not, it is not very common that you come across to someone, forged a friendship, and to learn later that the person has created a fake persona (just think Catfish TV show on MTV channel). Perhaps it is because I'm older now, and I run in concrete circles. It is not saying that there is without drama involved. It is more likely to come across bickering, and "mommy wars" based on disagreements, and what was said than discovering that someone is hiding behind a fake persona. Those type of people often got outed pretty quick. This type of BS is not tolerated very well with administrative staff. It is good to have this screening in the place to weed out shady folks.

I asked around about the topic regarding having internet friends, and how they know it is okay to trust their friends especially those that they have not met yet. The answers I have gotten is pretty much the standard; it is okay to have internet friends, and yes, they are trustworthy. Interestingly enough, a lot of people have said to me that internet friends are more reliable, trustworthy, and they feel closer to their internet friends than their real life friends.

It appears that internet helps you to weed out good from the bad, to quickly find those who falls in the same area of interests that you have, and observes a person based on how she/he acted in the forums. For example, I often frequent cloth diaper mama groups, motherhood-based type of groups, and blogging. Naturally, I meet, and find friends that enjoys the same thing. It is easy to forge friendships because there already exists same interests. Also, there is a bit of comfort having an anonymity behind the computer screen. You are not being judged by how you dress, how you talk, what you look like, and how you carry yourself. You are simply being observed based on what you say through your words, by what you post, and how you carry yourself on your profile through social networking sites. It is also easy for someone like me, who is Deaf, because this does not require a third party to communicate, such as an interpreter or someone who know sign language, and by typing, you are already carrying on a direct conversation.

In the real life, it is not easily done. You are judged automatically in person. First impression is everything. In my case, a lot of people find me intimidating because we do not speak in the same language. I am interpreted as cold at times due to my introvert nature. I am aware of this, and know it is not what defines me. Unfortunately, sometimes an opportunity to become friends falls through the cracks because of this. You often have to "wait", and allow things unfolds itself in order to really know someone by hanging out on a frequent basis. Sometimes, you end up realizing that the person you have been hanging out is not someone you would want to continue your friendship with. It takes more work in real life than it does on the internet.

To gain an internet friend, the person has to prove himself/herself to be trustworthy. How do you know that it is okay to trust the person especially behind the computer screen? It takes time, observation, and conversations to find that the person is who he/she says he/she is. In my experience, blogging often requires one to be open, brutally honest about their lives, and words come out stumbling onto these pages. I am who I write. People can conclude that I am a deep-thinker, an introvert, passionate about life, and carries values that I cherish. Of course, it is only an example. When readers reach out to me to talk with me, we develop rapport by talking, and some of the fellow bloggers/readers have become my friends. Do I trust them? Absolutely. It does take time. I don't necessarily open up and lay everything on the table. It takes many conversations, where things are being exchanged, shared, and spoken about.

For example, I recently gained a really wonderful friend because of my son's peanut allergy. If it is not for internet then I would have never met this person. Over the course of weeks of talking, we have come to an ease of being friends. I do consider her my friend even though I have yet to meet her in person.

I do think it is worth the risk. Just like real life, you meet someone, he/she is perceived as a honest person, and over the time, you find that it is not the case. It is unavoidable such as the recent event that had occurred in one of those mommy groups I am part of. It does happen both on internet and in real life.

When you do find someone you click with regardless over the internet or in real life, and share a trust then do make sure that person is being held on because true friends are hard to come by.

Calvin & Hobbes