The way we form friendships is changing in this new millennium. I have many online friends. The internet has opened up the great big world and enabled us to meet people that we wouldn't ordinarily meet in our day-to-day lives. I think it's a good thing.
I've been very fortunate in that I have been able to meet some of my online friends. The first meeting I had was in Indiana. We had traveled to Indiana for my dad's family's reunion. While there, I met up with a woman I'll call Amy. We had sons the same age. We met at a local McDonald's. We had lunch, the boys played and we talked. For a couple hours. We were both scared to death that the other was an ax murderer and had a really good laugh about it. We decided that we were both safe and she drove me to my motel (my dad had dropped us off) and before we got out, asked if we wanted to go to the petting zoo. We ran into our room, asked dad what his plans were and then I informed him she's not an ax murderer and we're going to the petting zoo with her. Once outside the motel room, out of site of the parking lot, I snuck a cigarette. Yes, I'm a smoker. It had been a few hours, I was nervous at first, and I really needed a smoke.
When we got back into her car the first thing she said was, "You just had a cigarette." I apologized profusely because I know smokers stink. I told her I had the dirty habit but I didn't tell people because it is such a character flaw. She started laughing and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her purse. She was a smoker, too. Before we left the parking lot, we got out of the car, let the kids play in the grass and we had a smoke together. She was wanting a smoke too and was to polite to mention her dirty habit.
I always thought that was a funny story. Two characters, with nasty habits, being found out.
I've met other online friends, too. There's a bunch of ladies that I know that live in the vicinity of my dad and my son and we got to meet them and their kids this summer. We had a wonderful time. My son enjoyed it as much as I did. While we were on vacation in November, we met up with yet another mom and her kids in South Carolina. Another great time.
While I take privacy and security on the internet very seriously, I still enjoy meeting people and making friends. I think it is wonderful for my son to branch out and meet others beyond our local community. The whole experience makes the world seem smaller in a way. Or perhaps it opens up his world to make it larger.
Another aspect about friendships and the internet is "regulars" on message boards. While I don't post often on any message board any more, I do read some daily. I feel I know the people who post -- their online persona, at least. I get sad when I read sad stories, I get happy when I read about triumphs.
I do start to care about people: Message board posters, bloggers, members of groups. The one problem I am facing at the moment is how do you tell someone you barely know that you are hurting for them, you feel so bad because they are really having struggles. I learned some very sad news last night about someone I met online, someone I admire and like very much. I've never met this person, and chances are that I never will. That doesn't mean my heart doesn't ache for what she is enduring right now. Sending off an email seems so impersonal and can never convey what a face-to-face conversation would. How will this person ever know that she has really been on my mind *a lot* lately, that I wish there were something I could do or say to make her trials easier. How could she possibly know I am very sincere. I guess the only way is for me to blog about it. She'll read it when she is able. Hopefully she'll know. I can't make her pain go away, but sometimes it just helps to know that someone out there sincerely cares.