I know this is somewhat of a cliché question – we all write about it. The differences between ‘real’ life and virtual life. How people can pretend to be anything or anyone that they want on the Internet essentially with impunity and get away with the most outrageous things sometimes. And of course I am not talking about spamming people’s email boxes with viagra ads. I’m talking about some pretty serious and nasty stuff. Child porn, abductions, identity theft and so on and so forth ad nauseum. But I want to take a little further spin around this block beyond the usual path that is traveled with this line of thinking.
I want to talk about love. LOL – gee that sounds like the beginning of disco song or something. Now before you start getting glazed eyes at the prospect of my doing a post about EHarmony or something hear me out for minute.
Long before there were computers, the internet, television, radio, telephones and any immediate type of communication medium, there were letters. As was the custom many moons ago, people wrote letters to one another, long letters, meaningful letters, letters that told of their secrets, their dreams, their hearts and sometimes the farming news and the condition of Aunt Marion’s bunions. It was also often the case that men and women fell in love through the medium of letters – Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning are a well known and famous example of such a love affair. During their 20 month courtship they exchanged nearly 600 letters. And if you have ever had the pleasure and joy of reading any of these letters you will discover that in fact it is possible to first find your way to love through words. And if you have not read any of these letters, do yourself a favor and read some of them. It will restore your belief in the human heart and in love.
So, tracking up the 21st century – or whatever century we’re in because last I heard there was some debate about it and I can’t be too bothered with it – the letter, has been replaced with the email (essentially). Though often emails are more like grocery lists and jotted scribbles across kitchen pads and are used as a quick efficient modern shorthand to get some basic ideas across, they too are letters. I don’t know about you but I have been known to write some very long emails and had some very long emails returned to me. I have had what I can only describe as a ‘saga’ between myself and some others where the exchange of emails numbered up to 100 over the course of a week. So strong and intense was the need to deliver and receive the ideas and concepts being discussed. For me, communication is communication. The fact that someone cannot see me nor hear my voice does not mean nor make my communication false or insincere. Or that of anyone else.
Bloggers may in particular understand this because eventually you become a part of a sort neighborhood, where you find like minded individuals who share interests, worries, troubles and joys in common through the mutual reading of the blogs. This often begins friendships and emails, chats and sometimes even phone calls ensue. In my case I can say that I have found two lifelong friends all because of the internet and email and online activities. But they are actually more than friends, I truly think of them as family. How this began and how it continued and why it even came about I guess is irrelevent but these two people are no less unbelievably and undeniably loved friends than they would be if we had grown up next door to each other. Phone calls, gifts, birthday cards, care packages, emails all have been exchanged and frequently and regularly and they are part of the paradigm of my life. I honestly cannot imagine my life without them in it. And one of them lives on the other side of the world, literally.
So the question then is how does this happen? How can you come to love someone you have never met as though they were your family? As though you grew up in the same house with them or worked at the desk next to them for the last twenty years. I’m not sure I know the answer but I will give a guess. I think that as human beings regardless of the environment we find ourselves in we give off clues of who we are, what we think, what we like, dislike, are afraid of, hope for and that can actually be perceived by another human if the connection is strong enough and the desire exists.
I have to laugh when I hear people say (write) that they are nothing like they seem on their blogs or on the internet, etc. etc. because of course they must be because they created whatever presence they are in that medium, whether they write about diaper bargains or heartfelt memoirs. A piece of them is there for anyone who has an eye to see it. Not all of them of course, but certainly some part, I don’t see how it could possibly be otherwise.
And it is also human nature to be drawn to anything kindred, in whatever form a person finds it. That they find it online, thanks to some whacky exchange of energy and wavelengths seems to me, irrelevent. Things do happen for a reason. People do cross paths for a reason – the how and where I think is secondary to the reason. So, while there are one million and one reasons to be cautious about meeting people online, becoming friends or even perhaps more – and rightfully so – there are also reasons to remember that the written word has been the medium for companionship, friendship and even love for longer than any of us have been on this earth and so to stay open to the possibility of that I think is worth the risk of being tricked, disappointed or just flat out wrong. You never know, you could end up with two lifelong friends and maybe more.