Earlier this year, I published a lengthy post about the benefits of blogging for old people. Among those benefits are new friendships, something that becomes particularly important when, as we get older, families may live far away, retirement removes daily interaction with colleagues, spouses and friends die and for some, as the years pile up, getting out and about becomes more difficult and less frequent.
And so, there are fewer opportunities to enjoy old friendships or to make new ones. Isolation and loneliness can become problems and are known to negatively affect health and mental acuity.
But blogging opens up a world of intimate connections and even for those who are not alone – or old yet – blog friendships are rewarding. Why else are we here every day? Yes, much has been written of the ego gratification of seeing our thoughts in print and having people respond to them. That is not to be dismissed. But I think as we become accustomed to it, the personal connections we make over the months and years of blogging take on greater importance.
Next to nothing has been written about the nature of blog friendships. They often develop, I think, when a blogger, writing of deeply personal feelings and events, touches another who has lived a similar experience. And even without revealing innermost secrets, we come to know and be drawn to one another through reading of our shared interests.
Email is then taken up, and a friendship burgeons, blossoms and grows although in most cases, we never meet in person. Do these friendships, I wonder, have the strength and “stickiness” of in-person friendships? I haven’t been blogging long enough yet to be certain.
My friend Sali and I met in 1969 or 1970. She subsequently moved to Israel and our face-to-face visits have been few in the 35 years since then. In recent years, email has kept us in closer touch, but we write in bursts and sometimes months can go by with little more than quick “hi, just checking in” notes. But when we see one another, we always relish the fact that we pick up the conversation as though we had seen one another just last week – as though no physical absence of great length has intervened.
Sali and I have a long-term, in-person history. Is it different, do you think, when we don’t know what someone we’ve come to feel a closeness with looks like?
Many of us publish photos of ourselves from time to time and even a video now and again. But what we don’t know is a blog friend’s body language, facial expressions, way of expressing themselves in speech – and what they might say in conversation without the advantage we have on our blogs of thinking it over first, editing ourselves and putting our best feet forward.
What I am wondering is how this changes the nature of online friendship compared to in-person friendship. In my early years of reading blogs, before I started TGB, I was often astonished at how personally revealing many bloggers are. Much more so, I think, to unknown readers than most of us would be in the first few meetings with a new in-person friend.
This might be an advantage to getting to know another better; sometimes it is easier to be honest at a remove from one another. On the other hand, there is much to be discerned about people non-verbally – the look in their eyes, the kinds of clothes they prefer, whether they are the touchy-feely sort or not, etc.
“On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” How DO online and in-person friendships differ? I wish some people more thoughtful and articulate than I am would put their minds to the nature of blog friendship.
[See also All My Blog Friends Live Close By]