August 17th, 2003


The nature of online friendships

When I know someone only online I can reveal more of myself, get to a more intimate place sooner, than with an in-person relationship. But the other side is that there is an element of unreality in the friendship, which makes it vulnerable to destruction. I think we can give up on these friendships more easily. A misplaced comment can lead to major misunderstandings that sometimes never get straight. In the heat of the moment this can mean the friendship is terminated. It feels callous to me.

The passionate, emotionally-charged person writes, "You are no longer my friend" or "Get out of my life". Or simply refuses all further correspondence. This is bad enough. Worse, though, it seems, is the person who accepts being cut off with an "Oh well", and moves on.

I have been that person. I have been cut off and have shrugged and gone on with barely a ripple. Not at first, though.

The first time it happened, many years ago, I was devastated. I did not understand what had happened. Someone who had been corresponding with me, who had become what seemed to be a close friend, suddenly stopped, no warning. I was so concerned that I even tried to track him down in other ways. I was able to confirm that he was the professor of comparative literature that he said he was, at the University of Montreal, but didn't find a phone number or other means of contact. I finally realized that if there had been a plane crash (he was supposed to be flying to France, was going to bring me a scarf) that I would have heard about it. I finally realized that he was simply done with talking to me.

It happened a few more times, somewhat different circumstances, generally not super-close friends. And then it happened here in LJ for the first time. Or, I should say, the friend came from here. He wrote in my journal, we struck up a friendship, got to writing long involved emails to each other.

We were so close that I once remarked that we seemed like two parts of the same person. He replied, no, the same parts. Then, later, I reacted somewhat negatively to something he wrote and he cut me off. Not a word. Kicked me off his friends list, did not return my email. I wrote again when I realized what he had done, said I had no good idea what I had done, was sorry it caused such a reaction, that I would like to continue to be friends. When I received no reply I dropped it. I took him off my friends list, too, and never again attempted correspondence.

It seemed clingy to keep trying. I wonder, sometimes, though, would he have responded eventually, if I had been more persistent? I will never know and this speaks volumes about me, that I was not willing to try.

Another LJ friend kicked me off, let me back on, kicked me off again. Volatile creature! I was forever watching my words, censoring myself, never quite able to be what this person seemed to want me to be. Just being honest and myself and reacting directly was not it. Thus, although this person was and is an intelligent, very interesting, creative, and in many ways supportive person, ultimately I felt I didn't need the roller coaster ride.

More, I was unable to involve myself as fully in this other life as I might had we been real-life friends. I feel this is what makes these friendships vulnerable, for me anyway. There isn't enough of an investment.

I am now to the point where I no longer am willing to tiptoe around to protect a friendship. I feel that if it is to be a real friendship it has to be subjected to various ups and downs and misunderstandings and emotional outbursts, just as in real life. I realize that making such a commitment to an online friend makes me that much more emotionally open, which is a good thing, makes me more likely to get hurt, of course. And yet. Will the hurt last as long as it would when a real-life friend cuts me off?

I have a friend who seems to have cut me off. A real-life friend. But it may not be that. It may be just being too busy, too occupied with other things. I don't know. If I have been cut off I have absolutely no idea why. I think being in a state of unknowing, in this case, protects me from feeling too hurt. Also, though, I think keeping up friendships is a lot of work, and part of me may well be thinking, "oh well"...

(no subject)

Sundance? IFC? HBO? Showtime?? All of these channels are showing up on my television and I don't know why. Might I hope that they have been added to my list of channels? I pay so damned much it seems only right.