Virtual friends: How do they stack up in the pecking order of friendships? Are they real? This is a topic that has probably been discussed a thousand times on Xanga but I don’t know if we’ve ever discussed what our partners, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends think about it. This comes to mind because I recently had a conversation with another Xangan and this person’s significant other is very uncomfortable with the idea of this person having these virtual friends with whom details of his or her life is shared.
I’ll be the first to admit, back in 1997 I dated a guy who liked to spend time on ICQ, the first internet-wide instant messaging service, and I was perplexed and somewhat dismissive of the “friends” he claimed to have made online. When he moved to Los Angeles I had the opportunity to meet one of them, and he and his partner did seem to be genuinely nice people. Still, I was suspicious of how well you could really know someone with whom you only interacted in a chat environment. This, of course, was before blogs really started.
When I started blogging five years ago, I did it just to keep family and friends informed of my experiences moving to Thailand. The idea of making new friends through the blog never crossed my mind. Over time, though, I did start making online friends and eventually had the opportunity to meet several people in person. Initially, they were friends of people I already knew in real life. Then, they were people who were traveling in Bangkok so we would meet for coffee or a meal or I would be visiting somewhere and would make the time to meet them.
I even traveled a few hundred miles out of my way two summers ago to visit the famous Dr. Zakiah and her family. When I was flying on the prop plane from St. Louis up to Quincy, the thought crossed my mind, “Her family must think she’s nuts, inviting some guy flying all the way from Bangkok to stay in her house!” But if they did think those thoughts, they kept them well hidden and were so wonderfully welcoming.
Over the years, Tawn has met many of these Xanga friends and he has found that they usually turn out to be warm, thoughtful, stable individuals. Nobody longing to break up our marriage and tempt me away. Nobody frightening. Nobody trying too hard to insinuate themselves into our lives in an overly-familiar way. So I’ve come to take for granted that he has no worries about my virtual friends and in fact has come to enjoy the company of many of them.
What about you and your partner, spouse, etc? How does he or she view your virtual friendships?
Additional reading: entry on The Change Blog about building positive virtual friendships.