Saturday, June 23, 2007

A change of heart

Not that long ago, I questioned how well we can actually know the people we read on the internet; whether it's from discussion forums, blogs or comments in response to posts. I was wary of believing that people are truly as they present themselves online.

In this post, I even went so far as saying,

We all make assumptions about people based on what they present to the outside world, and in the case of the interweb, how they write and respond in discussion forums, blogs, and comments. I start wondering if they'd be people I'd really like to meet face to face, whether I'd like them, whether they'd like me. The more I think about it the more I believe there aren't that many I'd want to meet in person. That's not to say I don't like or am not interested in the people I've met online; it's just that I'm not sure meeting them in reality would mesh with my assumptions, if that makes sense. Although, it might make for some interesting experiences.

I had mixed feelings.

Since then, I've been mulling it over in my mind and come to a couple of realizations: One is that people who post exclusively on message boards and discussion forums are hard to get to "know"; and second, bloggers are different; it seems like I personally know the bloggers I read regularly.

Recently, I came across a couple of blog posts that helped clarify my thinking.

One is Ronni Bennet's article about meeting a blogging friend.
As I mentioned last week, meeting online friends in person always feels like seeing an old friend. And so it was with Millie on Friday. There is no getting-to-know-you time because we already know each other better than non-bloggers would probably understand.

We spoke about how we spend more time with our online friends than with our local friends (whom we might see only occasionally) through reading one another’s blogs, discussing what we’ve written in comments, exchanging email and sometimes talking on the phone. There is fodder here, I think, for someone’s doctoral thesis one day. This is a new kind of relationship that transcends the pen pals of our childhood probably because of the immediacy we did not have with snailmail and the camaraderie that develops among those bloggers who hang out in the same blogs.

It's a different kind of friendship – but a friendship just the same.

There are some bloggers with whom I feel a great affinity. They are, by and large, those who aren't afraid to put everything out there, the good and the bad. They allow readers to see and feel through their eyes and hearts, and they express their opinions without the ever-present self-censoring that occurs in face to face encounters.

The other article is from Marty of TravelinOma's Library. It gave me a eureka moment. She said precisely how I'd been feeling lately, but unable to articulate.

In her post, Looking In, she contends that when you read someone's writing, you get to know the inner person first. Whereas normally, we get to know people from judging the outside first, sometimes never getting to know the real inner person.
I get to know an author from the inside out. I make friends in real life from the outside in. When I read what someone has written, I feel like I'm inside their head. If I connect with their descriptions, characters, humor or wit, they become some of my best friends. I've often been surprised to see a photo, or interview and find out what these friends look like. To know them so well, and then discover that they're old, or bald, or in a wheelchair, or whatever, is somehow sweet to me. I think, "So this is what the outside of you looks like."

Both Marty and Ronni made me realize that, in many respects, I know the bloggers I read regularly more intimately than many of my day to day friends. Conversely, readers of my blogs probably know me better than some of my everyday friends.

There's a freedom in writing that lends itself to openness and candor. There are things I've written on the pomegranate tiger that I wouldn't discuss with my friends, simply because I don't think they'd be interested. Yet they're things that are important to me. In doing so, I've found other like-minded folks or at least people who have an opinion on what I think from time to time.

So, I guess I've had a change of heart and wouldn't be so averse to meeting someone I know from the internet.

1 comment:

TravelinOma said...

I'm so flattered to be quoted on your blog!

I'm not sure I'd want to meet any on-line buddies in real life. It might take away the freedom of the friendship if I actually knew them. I might have to worry about them, and feel guilty if I never called, and wonder if they feel obligated to read my blog now.

Blogging is kind of like talking to myself, but getting insight and stimulation in return. It meets a need, and it's pressure free.