Elderblogger Steve Sherlock keeps at least two blogs: his personal blog, Steve’s 2 Cents and Franklin Matters, which is Steve’s “public service effort to share information on what’s important” in his home town of Franklin, Massachusetts.
A couple of months ago Steve, who is in his mid-50s, became one of millions of Americans slammed by the economic crisis when he was laid off work. He is tracking his job search activities and reporting job search tactics for everyone in a special section on his 2 cents blog where he has made compelling use of nature photos to illustrate his story topics.
No matter how diligent anyone is in running a job search, however, there is always extra time and Steve has made his unemployment an opportunity to do things he wouldn’t be able to when working full time. Among those, last Friday, he rode the Downeaster train from Boston to Portland, Maine to visit me.
Steve and I have known one another through our blogs and email for nearly five years and on Friday, lunching on home-made pea soup and cute little pastries from a good, local bakery, we set about getting acquainted in person. Over the course of the afternoon, we pretty much solved all the problems of the world and I drove Steve back to the train in the early evening.
Not counting dozens of mostly younger bloggers I’ve met at conferences, Steve is about the 15th elderblogger I’ve spent time with in person. It is a treat when that happens and invariably it does not feel like a first meeting. By the time two bloggers get together in the same physical space, they already know a lot about one another. There is none of the awkward conversation there often is between strangers who have just met as they search for common interests.
The nature of blog friendships is a fascinating phenomenon. We come together by chance from around the world and through only the words we write, some people we meet this way become as close and dear as anyone we know in person. After five years of blogging, about half the people most important in my life are now bloggers. I can no longer imagine life without this particular kind of social relationship.
As I have written here in the past and in the Wall Street Journal, I believe blogging is a near-perfect pastime for elders. It keeps us socially engaged at a time in life when, in retirement, we no longer have the daily camaraderie of the workplace, our children have their own busy lives, mobility can become an issue and old friends (and spouses) die. In addition, blogging is an excellent mental exercise that helps keep brain cells active and our minds nimble.
With all that, I still haven’t entirely parsed blog friendships. Our in-person friendships can be described in concentric circles from the closest, inner family and tightest friends to the outer fringes that include regular encounters with, for example, store clerks, favorite restaurant wait people and such.
Those circles translate well to our blog relationships, but it doesn’t explain how we come to love those in our closest blog circle whom we’ve never laid eyes on and in many (most?) cases never will. It is a new, 21st century development that doesn’t fit any of the social groups known throughout the history of mankind.
It doesn’t really matter whether I understand the dynamics of blog friendships; I’m happy for them with or without explanation. And it is such a lovely compliment when a blog friend goes out of his or her way to visit, as Steve Sherlock did last week.