I know I will be ‘preaching to the converted’ in this post, but humour me and read this anyway. I want to write about the distinction that many people make between ‘In-Real-Life Friends’ and ‘Internet Friends’. As bloggers, it is very likely that there is a melting of the two terms because we know through experience that ‘Internet Friends’ quickly become ‘Real Life’ friends even though we might never have met them. For this reason, I don’t like these distinctions and prefer ‘Friends-I-Have-Met’ and ‘Friends-I-Have-Never-Met’. For me, it is much more accurate.
Some years ago I had a discussion with family members about this. They could not comprehend the idea of having friends they had never met. To them, such friends could not be friends. At the time, I was in a relationship with someone who I had never met. We eventually met, but even before that meeting the relationship was very real. Our friendship was very met. I maintained then and now, that friendships with that I have never met can be as real, satisfying and fulfilling as those friends I have known since school days. In many cases I maintain that because of the sheer nature of communication between those we have never met, it is possible that such friendships are even more intense and real than anyone I have known ‘all my life’.
This morning I woke to shocking news that a friend of some years, who some would consider an ‘internet friend’, had suddenly died. I had never met my friend, and I suspect we might never have met even if she had lived, but I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my chest as I read the Facebook posts which were accumulating in the hours since her death. I was struggling for air.
We had never laid eyes on each other, but we shared many things in common. She had been unwell for many months, but her death was completely unexpected. As her friends, we had followed her months of sickness, wishing that she would be returned to health soon. There was no reason to expect otherwise. Perhaps the greatest day in my mind was when someone took my friend’s much-loved dog into hospital to see her.
I had met my friend through an on-line support group some years back. We had both since moved on from the group but maintained our friendship. She was one of the most caring and ‘real’ people I am sure I will have had the pleasure to know. To her, there was nothing complicated about ‘In-Real-Life’ or ‘Internet’ friendships. It was simply that we had a connection and it actually didn’t matter that we had never, nor were likely to ever meet.
Whether we met or not, the friendship we had was real. Read ‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ if you don’t believe me about what is real.
My friend has passed today and I am quite devastated. The world is truly a sadder place because of her passing. I loved her in spite of our never meeting. My life is better for her having been in it. Rest In Peace, Jill.