Monday, April 09, 2007

I have an online blogger friend, Elisabeth, over at "As my world turns" who posted today about her experiences meeting face-to-face with online friends.

More often than not, Elisabeth's posts stimulate my brain's thinking process and today was no different, with the exception that this post prompted me to respond with a post of my own rather than comment on her blog.

I've, as yet, not met face-to-face with any of my online friends. If an opportunity to do so presents itself, I will make the effort to meet them.

Online, we can present any face we choose. We may develop a sort of virtual person that is no true reflection of who we are in real life. In fact if a friend from our "real" life were to read one of these fabricated personnas, they might say "I don't know this person, it's not the so and so that I know". On the other hand we might only display a part of our real selves to the online community, while hiding those things we find embarrassing or at least uncomplimentary. If that is the case and you do meet one of these folks face to face, it can be expected that we will see someone different than we anticipated. Does that make our online friendships less real? And, really do we do anything less in our "real-life" relationships?

I've worked in my current place of employment since 1969, with a 5 year hiatus to go to nurse anesthesia school and pay the Army back for footing that bill. About ten years ago a nurse who worked the wards and had been there as long as I'd been in the OR applied for and was given a job in our ambulatory unit. One day she heard me joking around with a group of co-workers. Later she mentioned to them that she was surprised at how talkative and social I was. She said that she had always thought of me as a quiet, reserved, timid sort of fellow. Everyone, I mean the entire group of my co-workers looked at her and said en mass, you certainly don't know rel at all!!! Yet we had been acquaintances for 20 years prior to her coming to the OR. So, I ask you, for this woman, which rel was I?

We , each of us, are an amalgamation of different personnas. We are different with our boss than with our bosom buddies, We are different with our lovers than with our friends. We treat strangers differently than our close acquaintances. And yet we can also be friends with each one. How is that, and what does it have to do with Elisabeth's post?

It all has to do with expectations.
A year or so ago I borrowed a book from a friend which was about an interview with the Dalai Lama. In this book the Dalai lama discussed expectations as being the root of most people's disappointment in life.
After reading this passage I came away with this caveat, if we suppress or set aside our expectations we'll be happier.

Those of you who have read my blog for awhile might recall a trip my wife and I took this past November to Arizona. It was a business trip as I was attending an anesthesia conference. The first evening we attended a "get acquainted" dinner. We arbitrarily chose to sit with another couple who were sitting alone at a table for four. We had never met before, and the only commonality was that at least two of us were nurse anesthetists. As the evening progressed we discovered that we shared many more interests than anesthesia. There was a significant disparity of some thirty years in our ages, yet we "hit-it off" immediately and over the course of the week spent most of our time together. While Scott and I were in meetings, my wife and Michelle shopped and saw the sights. Every evening but one we went out to dinner together. In short, over a period of a few days we developed a keen friendship.
Over Christmas we exchanged Christmas cards and an e-mail. We've not communicated since. I still think of them as friends and I would not give up the time we spent together even if I could have fore-told that we probably would not sustain that friendship over the long term.
Scott, Michelle, Diane, rel
Tuscon Arizona Nov. 2006

When I was in Anesthesia school We made friends with a couple and we became best of friends. Guy and I graduated as co-valedictorians of our class. We partied together often and cooked holiday dinners together. We were inseparable. After graduation he took a job in a city two hours from my home, I on the other hand had to repay my debt to the U.S. army for footing the bill for my education. My friend Guy and I corresponded regularly. When I was to leave for an overseas assignment to Korea, D. and I stopped and spent a few days with Guy and Gail and in fact I went to the hospital with him one day to show his employers my skill at anesthesia as a prelude to my applying there for a job upon completion of my military obligation. We've not seen each other since. That was in 1972. Guy and Gail are divorced and Guy is retired. Two years ago we started corresponding again but only sporadically and usually around holiday time. I think he reads this blog from time to time. If I could have known that this would have been the outcome of befriending this fellow, would I have refrained from making friends with him. No! I value the time we spent together and still recall fondly many of the good times we spent together.

Online friendships are online friendships. If perchance you meet face-to-face and a friendship develops; hip hip hooray. If not, does it make what you had online any less? Online friends are worth something. It's like finding a gold coin or a rare relic. It's a real relationship where you share ideas and like thoughts and even differ from time to time. By and large it's a friendly caring support network of kindred spirits. Unless the blogsphere is controlled by a wizard of OZ, these are real people with real lives that I'm corresponding with and I consider them real bonafide friendships.

I've made 10's of thousands of friendly acquaintances over the course of my 61 years. I look back at many with fond appreciation of the time we shared. I don't rue the fact that they ended.
Do I regret not marrying all the girlfriends I've had in my life? No way. Do I remember them fondly? You bet I do....But my wife of forty years was the best choice then and now. Are we a good match? Most of the time. Other times we're like fire and water. What's important is that most of the time we complement each other. We shine in our differences.

Of all the many people I met, I liked and like most of them. A few, I've allowed to get under my skin and fester like a tick, but I'm working on forgiving them for being such assholes.

My hooch-mate from Viet Nam, Pappy, calls me every year on or about the 10th of November (the Marine Corps Birthday.) We were friends of circumstance. We shared a war and espirit de corps.

A few years ago, he came from Colorado to spend a few hours with me. We had a couple of beer, and ate dinner...his treat. We talked about where our lives had gone since Nam. He asked me, "Goofy, I thought you were going to become a doctor?" I said, "Pappy, things change!" We parted with a hug and a smile, a smile between two men who shared a life altering experience. Who were the best of friends for a few months over forty years ago. "Take care Pappy." Take care Goofy." He called last November, while I was in Arizona making new friends, and left a message on the machine.......! No expectations, just living each day, one delightful moment at a time.

rel (goofy) and Sonny (Pappy)

Vietnam 1965

Online friendships are a gift. A gem is a gem. If you don't hit it off face-to-face, the friendship that led you to seek out the meeting is still a gem.


Blogger jellyhead said...

I couldn't agree more, Rel - some friendships are born of proximity and don't last, some are much deeper and last a lifetime. Yet every good friendship brings joy.

Online friendships are valid friendships, too - especially when you have read your blogpal's thoughts (in posts, comments and/or e-mails) for months or even a year or more - you get a pretty good idea what the person is like. Sure there is the possibility of pretence, but as you say, that possibility is there in 'real life' too.

I love your 'seize the day' motto Rel!

11:26 PM  
Blogger jellyhead said...

PS *Thank you* for the Thinking Blogger mention!!

11:27 PM  
Blogger PEA said...

Rel, I so agree with everything you wrote in this post...I've been very lucky in being able to meet some online friends face to face. Some I only saw a few times, others, like Steve, have become my lifelong friends. I'm pretty much what you see in my posts...people are just surprised at how shy I really am when they meet me in person though! lol I haven't met any blogging friends yet but that might change this summer since a few have suggested meetings:-) As for all the real life friends I've had before and now, like you, I cherish having known them. To me, friends are all part of our lives and growing up. Wonderful post my friend!! Un jour j'aimerais vous rencontrer xox

11:31 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

Friends are friends...some are made in places we would never imagine. Some we see often, some we don't. Some we communicate with often, others we don't. If they're very good friends, I believe they remain that way forever, whether they see each other often or not. One friend of mine, I've known since I was four-years of age. We don't see each other often...but we know we are always there for each other. Another I've known since we started school together and we are still the very best of friends to this day. I've got very good friends that have lasted for years and we don't need to be in each other's company all the time....we know who we each are.

What you read on my blog, I can honestly say is who I am. I don't lie, but I also don't reveal things that are very personal to me. I don't even do that with real life people, in most cases. I'm a fairly private person and keep my inner most thoughts and feelings right there...within.

There are only a few people whom I've met in my life, that I care not to ever see again...but there are far more good people I've met and care the good definitely out weighs the bad by a thousand miles!

A friend, a good friends likes you, warts and all...and likewise.

Great post, Rel. :)

3:04 AM  
Blogger paris parfait said...

Amen, Rel. Such a wonderful, thoughtful post. As for the blogging bit, I put my heart out there. The me that appears in my blog is me, perhaps toned down a bit for public consumption. And I've been thinking that if I put all my friends in a room together: 1) they wouldn't all fit and 2) they wouldn't necessarily get along, as different aspects of my personality; different times and locales in my life informed those friendships. But I think that 90 percent of my friends now - as well as my long-term friends - would get along and find things in each other in which to delight. Love the Vietnam photo and am so thankful you lived to tell. And I'm looking forward to seeing you and D. in Paris! xo

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Thanks Rel,

It is interesting to me, that before blogging I had no friends, and I still don't have any friends who are not bloggers.

Doesn't bother me in the least. I've met one friend in person, and have plans to meet more this year, but they are bloggers who are no longer just on-line friends, but real life friends.

Great post this is. :)

7:51 AM  
Blogger Crafty Green Poet said...

Excellent post! Thoughtful and thought provoking ...

12:28 PM  
Blogger Churlita said...

I have often said that relationships are all about expectations. if your friend doesn't call you for a while, you're fine with it, but if the person your dating waits a bit to call you, there is hell to pay. The expectations are completely different.

Once again, a thoughtful post.

2:17 PM  
Blogger soccergirl05 said...

I believe when we are talking to a person online we are not revealing our TRUE self. You may feel that it is easier to talk to a person online before you meet them, however in the long run it prevents you from developing good communication skills. After all, it's not like our lives work that way. We simply do not get to talk to everyone online before we met them. Also talking to a person online may give you the wrong impression of them and when you finally meet them in person your expectations may not be met.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

first off, i love the picture of you and Pappy

i've been really lucky - all the blog friends i have met in person have been wonderful. heck, i flew to Seattle last year to meet 6 of them all in one go :-). On monday i spent the day with another, a sweet and lovely girl, and next week i have my 'blog friend' from Afghanistan coming to stay with me for 2 days. perhaps it's the level of honesty i share on my blog, or just luck, but i have drawn some definite kindreds to me, and feel very fortunate to have made these connections... i have also gained an uncle, which is lovely :-)

Great post! x

1:53 PM  
Blogger giggles said...

This is a fabulous post! Some people you really do only meet for a season. Life would overwhelm me if I maintained every friendship I’ve had over the years! It’s difficult enough connecting with the people I love! This may be crass, but years ago I met this needy woman at a group, she asked to be my friend, I blatantly turned her down. Explaining that my time and energy were too scarce to include another person in my life! Yes there are many hidden aspects to bloggers, no doubt about that! However I have connected with a few I absolutely adore, and would love to meet with! The intimate side of humans is so alluring!

Hugs Sherrie

4:04 PM  
Blogger M said...

Well said! Very well said. One of my favorite posts on any blog I have read so far!

6:34 PM  
Blogger Catch said...

Very well said Rel...I have friends that go back to my school days and I may not see them for 10 years, but when I do see them, we pick up right where we left off. I have a friend I made in Atlanta, he and I have been talking on the phone occasionally, sending each other holiday cards for 7 years...we have never met in person but we are great friends! Friends are friends, whether they are online friends or whatever. And you can never have too many.

2:20 AM  
Anonymous hundred and one said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post and I found myself nodding all the while through it because it is all so true - the things you have written.

And it's lovely to finally see what you look like!!

10:35 AM  
Blogger ju_ju03 said...

Hi everyone. My name is JuJu. I am in a situation and I can't distinguish whether it's an issue or not. I have this online friend and we have been talking for about a year now. We have never met yet we tell each other everything. I enjoy talking with this friend so much that I have been shutting out all my real-life friends. Has anyone ever been in this situation before?

3:15 PM  
Blogger Chipper said...

Well this post has inspired to start my own!! Thanks REL


9:33 PM  
Anonymous Jessica said...

Hey great to know about your online friend! I have a host of net friends too! It's great fun and you learn so much from them. There is a great deal of excitement and we have an imaginary picture of them.I agree with you that online friends are the next best thing. Cheers!

4:42 AM  

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