Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are Internet Friends Real Friends?

I was discussing this question with my teenager the other day.  My 14 year old son, was loading my new phone with my contacts from my old phone for me and he kept asking me - Who is this? and who is that? when he entered the names of people whom he had never met, yet took up a significant amount of space on my contact list.  I told him those were my Cafemom friends and he scoffed as he said "Those aren't real friends, mom". 
To him, they were just names on a screen, not real people to his way of thinking.
I have always cautioned my kids to never, ever accept Facebook (or other social network) friend invitations from strangers and to ignore any overtures from people they don't know in real life.  The Internet is a dangerous place, I tell them.  And it is - for teenagers.  They haven't had enough life experience to pick up on the difference between someone who is just trying to lure them into something unsavory, and a genuine approach to friendship.  It is best for them to remain in their own in-the-flesh social bubble for now.  They should understand the dangers without having to risk experiencing them first hand.  
So, since I have always cautioned him and his brothers and sister not to branch out into the World Wide Web, he finds it odd that I don't practice what I preach in this regard.  I am not generally a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of parent, so I can understand his confusion and I will admit that when I first entered the on-line worldI was hesitant to really get to know people.  I interacted, but on a very superficial level.  Then as time went on I relaxed a little.  I joined a group here on Cafemom that was dedicated to one of my favorite subjects - Grammar and Spelling.  It was there that I met some genuinely beautiful souls with whom I felt such a comfort level that began to see them as real friends.  The same thing happened in another group of ladies who were all Green and Natural like me.  It took me a little longer to find some women who shared my faith, but also accepted me and my seeming eccentricities in that realm, but find them I did; and we bonded.
A while back, I set about bringing all of these beautiful, smart, extraordinary womentogether.  I knew if they ever met each other it would be an intensely glorious experience for everyone.  They were sure to find in each other what I had found in each of them individually.  Then, I figured if they came together, and also brought along a few people they thought were as great as I thought they were, it would be magic.  How right I was.  
I can't take credit for the magnificence that ensued when all these women came together, that credit goes to each of them individually, but I am proud to have been the conduit by which they all met. The catalyst that brought about the reaction that occurred when that many amazing women congregate in one place.  It truly is something that has to be experienced to grasp.  I am grateful to be a part of it.  These ladies are as close to my heart as are the wonderful friends I have in my face to face life.  I won't say In Real Life, because these Internet ladies are my real life friends.  We interact, support, and yes, sometimes even kick each other's ass back into place.  In my book those are real life friends.
This group of ladies have been my bedrock many times.  My reality check in good times and in bad.  Man, this is getting really sappy, like a Hallmark card or something, but I can't help it.  They are all just so wonderful, individually and collectively.  I have counted on them to tell me the truth whether I wanted to hear it or not.  They have cheered me on and cheered me up when I needed it most.  I love them all dearly and deeply.  How to explain this to a 14 year old boy, though?  It's not something he is likely to understand.  That's okay; he really doesn't need to.  I know what it means to me to have them in my life and I hope they know what they mean to me, too.
So, to the question - Are Internet friends real friends?  My answer is a resoundingYES
And I should mention this in closing:  I am not done with this circle-of-friends project.  There are still others I want to ask to join in on the fun, so look out.  You may be my next target.