Over the past couple of months, I have received a fair amount of email from new readers wanting to know how to make friends online. Some ask for advice about starting a blog; others aren’t quite ready for that leap but would still like to connect with people their age.
In my own experience, I’ve found that it’s hard not to find friends if you jump in and make yourself part of the conversation on blogs. Darlene, now of Darlene’s Hodgepodge, had been a regular around the blogosphere for a couple of years before she began her blog, as had joared of Along the Way and Naomi Dagen Bloom of A Little Red Hen. I’m sure there are others who don’t come to mind right now.
There are also non-blogging readers we come to know through their comments (and at this blog, from their contributions to The Elder Storytelling Place) and with some, we further the friendship through email. In the TGB Blogging Survey in May, half of the 187 who responded to the question (all were age 50 or older) said they had made friends through blogging.
In a follow-up question, nearly 32 percent of the 373 who answered the question described their relationship with blog friends as “good friends” or “as important as real world friends."
Sometimes we get to meet our online friends in person. I’ve been pleased to meet quite a few: Claude of Blogging in Paris, Millie of My Mom’s Blog, Pete of As I Was Saying…, Marian Van Eyk McCain of ElderWomanBlog, amba of Ambivablog, Frank Paynter of listics, Betsy Devine of Betsy Devine: Funny Ha-Ha or Funny Peculiar, Francine Hardaway of Stealthmode, Deejay of Small Beer, younger bloggers like Chris Pirillo of pirillo.com and Stan James of Wandering Stan and more (apologies to those unnamed).
I've known some of these people for years - they have become old friends now as have others there has not been the opportunity to meet (yet).
Although it is unlikely I’ll ever get on airplane again unless it’s a matter of life and death, wherever I go, I check to see if there are elderbloggers in the city to which I’m traveling and if we can make time to get together. Also, I’m surprised at how many bloggers I know online have reasons to visit so far afield as Portland, Maine. Citizen K and I are making arrangements now to meet when he and his wife are here in September.
Just guessing, but my closest friends are now split about evenly between offline and online, and those with whom I’m closest are equally important, whichever "world" they fall into; whether I know them in person or at the distance of a keyboard.
A sad result of getting old is how friends tend to die. One here, one there and pretty soon you’re talking about big-time holes in your life. The memories of old friends are wonderful to have, but it’s hard to meet them for dinner or have a phone chat.
Which is a big reason I work hard to advocate elderblogging. In retirement, we lose the daily camaraderie of the workplace, we may need to give up the car keys and sometimes physical mobility becomes limited. But sitting at the computer, we have a literal world of potential friends at our fingertips.
All you need to take advantage of that is to be open, join the conversation (don’t lurk for too long) and follow up with those for whom you feel a simpatico. And bloggers – be sure to welcome newcomers when you see their names in the comments more than once. Help bring them into the world of elderblogging and the world of friendship it creates.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellen Younkins is back with another poem, Golfer's Lament.]