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Does the “e” invalidate?

Janet Russell liked this post

You can do this!

Inhabitants of the blogosphere, social media and virtual reality form friendships with people across the globe. The barriers to friendship which exist in person are often overlooked because they never come up in conversation or ignored altogether as irrelevant. Janet took the time to look at, and give you a look into, her e-friendships. It is an interesting tale. She has questions. Grab a cuppa.

Can e-friends be friends?

Do you keep your online friends (e-friends) at arm’s length? Or are they as close to your heart as your real life friends?

Just as in real life, usually there are varying degrees or levels of relating to folks online. That of course may vary, as well, depending on where you hang out online.

I hang out on blogs and on art sites, for the most part. And Facebook, mostly because I must, for promoting my art/book. This post is not about the sites, services themselves, rather about the relationships we develop, especially the ones that grow into something we would not usually expect from internet interactions.

Facebook

Facebook Friends Red Star FractaletLet’s take a look at Facebook first. Facebook has active membership in the billions. In the US alone, nearly half (41%) of the US population subscribe to and use their FB accounts (Wiki). I first opened a Facebook account early on in its public evolution, probably around 2007. My purpose was to keep in touch with my many siblings and their families who were scattered all over the US and still scattering. Because we never have been a prolific correspondence bunch, it was a way to keep current on our lives and affairs.

Then, it stretched to cousins. Then, I added work cohorts. Just a few back then, but now that I’ve retired, I have many more as “friends”. Now, Facebook allows members to create a page, which you can brand as you like, and, for the most part, the Facebook world does not associate your personal account with your page unless you make it so.

The point is, for me, Facebook is not usually a place where I create/develop personal relationships. There are many other networking services, MySpace, Twitter, reddit etc. (none of which I use, or am familiar with), providing, basically the same sort of service as Facebook.

Do you have a Facebook or other social network presence? What do you use it for? Do you look forward to interacting with friends and “friends” on Facebook or other “places”? Or do you use it as a platform to promote yourself as an artist, woodworker, writer or to show you’re a BIG fan of a particular social icon, like Twinkies?

Blogosphere

As do most of you, I’m guessing, I spend a lot of time in the blogosphere. In a three year period in early 2000’s, blogs increased from  one million to over forty million, says a Gallop poll on blogging (Wiki). I’m fairly new to it, only a couple years under my belt. But believe you me, I have great respect for the blogosphere and the folks I meet and interact with. There are so many blogs, there is NO WAY anyone could ever frequent all the blogs/bloggers I like find interesting, or perhaps the blogger is more skilled in areas I choose to explore.

A Friendship FlowersIn the mere two years, I have met some wonderful people, and some deep relationships have resulted. I may not even know much about the blogger (and commenters too), but I believe you can tell a lot about a person by the way they present themselves. And present their chosen subjects on which they blog. Some are funny, some are serious. Some are radical, some profound. And the same goes for the commenters on these blogs.  That fact, itself also limits the amount of blogs I can frequent, visit often, seldom or even rarely. Because I spend as much time watching the interactions going on, reading the comments on some very popular blogs. Since I usually don’t get there early enough to be the first responder, I have the privilege of becoming acquainted with people I might not otherwise encounter. So, I visit THEIR blog, and my list of interesting folks and their blogs grows exponentially.

But in all that, I have found some very interesting folks, some good-hearted people who really care about others they meet in the blogosphere. Some of these I now call friends. Real friends.

Recently, I was in a cyber situation with a handful of others; some were strangers, all of us working toward the same goal. It was easy to get to know these folks, and to grow to like them. Working together, sharing ideas and material, our hearts touched because our shared goal was something very significant to each of us. And more friendships blossomed. Friendships that extend beyond the common interests or other factors that brought us together initially.

I am very grateful for the friends I’ve made within the blogosphere. They are special because we don’t (yet?) have the obstacles of body language and other subliminal communicating factors that one has with meeting/interacting with people in person. But we have shared some of our deepest, truest, most intimate feelings so we enjoy relationships built on things near and dear to us. I have found a deep and sincere interest in the success of these friends in their various endeavors. Even the ones I haven’t gotten to know yet!

Have you met any special friends in the blogosphere? Do you feel that the people you meet in the blogosphere are being honest, expressing their true selves? Or perhaps you have experienced the opposite? Folks who only develop a relationship with you to keep their blog stats high? Or some other agenda?

Though I understand the need for caution, I tend to trust e-friends quickly and unconditionally. From the safety of my own home.

Deviant Art

A third “place” where I have made some great friends is on the art sites I joined. Digital art is a passion I wanted to interact with others over. For many reasons. To learn To be inspired. To share. To teach. The first art community I joined was Deviant Art. True, I was a little put off by the name, but at the same time curious to see why it had such a descriptive moniker. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in 2011, DA ranked 13th most visited social network (Wiki).It has more than 14 million members, boasting nearly 150,000 submissions daily.

Janet Russell

Put a face with the name.

Almost as soon as I joined, I realized the name, though strange, had nothing to do with the individuals in the community, really. These were real folks from all over the world. So, I visited their galleries and was inspired by the many talented people who share their work on DA. This was a community of very generous artists who wanted nothing more than to share their knowledge and experience so that others (me?) could learn and grow as artists. And so I did. Then I found the courage to begin filling my own gallery. And was shocked and amazed and proud when some of the most talented artists I’d ever know actually liked my work.

Over the years (about 4 now), some personal relationships developed here, as in the blogosphere. Again, some folks with whom I shared direct communication and common interests outside of the Deviant Art world.

A couple months back, one of these relationships was suddenly changed. The other DA member, Mark, unfortunately passed away. He was a prolific and talented artist. He was also a prolific commenter on many, many different artists work. Always a positive word. Always a showing of support and kindness. He loved the DA community and we, in turn, loved him. He shared with me that due to a decades old accident, he was “disabled”. Due to permanent brain damage, his ability to communicate had changed – he could not write to the standards most of us take for granted. Yet he was always able to get his point across. He was always clear and supportive, even if his punctuation and grammar were a little “off”. There were other physical challenges, but they did not define him, in his mind or in mine.

This is what I find so special about online friendships, with people we’ve not met, and probably won’t. When not interacting in person, we are able to see beyond the factors that might otherwise affect how we perceive someone. Body language can be a hindrance. As can many other factors/features/aspects that make us who we are. And, unfortunately, once we’ve met that person and observed their differences or similarities, a portion of our mind and heart always adds those factors into our conscious perception of the person. Once there, it’s pretty hard to redefine that person in our mind to someone who is more than what you see.

Ma and Pa Urban Fox (Roxy & Rocky) by Mark a/k/a Kram

Ma and Pa Urban Fox (Roxy & Rocky) by Mark a/k/a Kram

Mark was curious, well read, and understood human nature better than many people I know. He was gentle and kind and opened up to his DA friends. He was genuine and generous. He had a relationship with a family of “urban foxes” that lived in his backyard. And he shared that with us in his almost daily photos of Roxy and Rocky and their kits when they arrived. And they grew accustomed to him, allowing him to get closer and closer as he photographed them over a couple years. His photos were studies of conscious beings that weren’t people. But, in reality, they were very much like us.

So, when Mark died, I felt the grief physically, same as when a beloved family member had passed. I cried. In wonder, I felt the hole he had left in my heart and in the world. His absence was palpable. That’s when I realized that I needed to redefine friendship. To consciously include some of the wonderful friends I’ve met online, and knew only online. I already was aware they were special. I just hadn’t realized how much they really meant to me. A lot!

And I learned a good lesson from this. We learned of Mark’s passing, because his brother (Simon) knew of Mark’s passion for his art and the DA community. So, Simon felt it appropriate to notify us of his demise. As much as we hate to, it is usually a good idea to prepare for our own death, by making wills, or expressing our final wishes in some fashion. I can tell you that I have already made it abundantly clear that when I leave, I want someone to notify all my e-friends. So they won’t be left wondering what has become of me and are able to grieve properly.

Have you prepared for this, in your final wishes? Do you care if your e-friends are made aware that you have died? Or do you feel it’s not their business? Since we usually don’t pre-know the exact moment of our passing and can’t let e-friends know in advance, do you feel they have a right to this knowledge? Would you want to know that if any of your e-friends suddenly disappeared, it was due to their death?

Whatever your thoughts on this, remember that friendships are valuable. No matter how they are formed. Or where.

And then there are our critter friends… but that’s another post entirely!


You have already been acquainted with my view of this subject, and Janet is definitely with the M3 style with the questions. Let’s get a real discussion going. You are more than welcome to answer anyone’s comments as well as answering the questions yourself.

Stop by and check out Janet Russell and her new book, Fractal Dreams.

© Red Dwyer 2013
Original post and fractal images © Janet Russell
Urban Foxes © Mark a/k/a Kram666
Re-Blogging of this or any other post on The M3 Blog
is expressly forbidden.
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86 Comments

  1. This is a very thought provoking post, Janet, and thanks for sharing, Red! Yes, I’m back and so glad to be back! I’ve missed you and thank you so much for all your support! xoxo
    Alright, now moving on to the subject, I have a personal fb that started when my kids wanted one. That was the stipulation. They’re great kids and older now, so it’s really just used for fun. I have some friends and family far away that also have a fb, so it’s a great source of staying in the loop. Dare I admit that I’m addicted to Words with Friends? Yep, I’ve always loved Scrabble, so I have about 7 games going right now. Crazy!
    I also have a poetry fb page, which is strictly for my writing and to visit other pages, as well. I can’t believe how it has grown and I’m very humbled.
    My poetry blog has been active for about 15 months, although, I took a personal break for 3 months and have just returned. I have met so many wonderful “friends” and have developed friendships that I call “High Tech Pen Pals!” We email and keep each other up to date and many have been supportive of what my family has gone through at the end of last year. My hubby and children prefer to be private regarding my blog, so therefore, I haven’t opened up completely personally in blogland. Maybe I will someday, but right now, I need to respect my family’s wishes…
    But, I must say that I look forward to my e-chats and really have grown close to some very genuine bloggers.
    Now, of course, I have to admit that fb and blogging come after work, family and chocolate lab! 🙂 My only wish is that I had more time to visit other blogs.
    So, in returning, my goal is to post one or two poems a week, then respond to comments and read other blogs in between. I will try not to stress about “doing it all” because I simply can’t.

    Red, thanks again, and I wish you a wonderful new year full of hope, love and miracles! xoxo
    Lauren
    LScott recently posted..I Loved YouMy Profile

    Reply
    • I was so excited to see your new post in my inbox this morning. <3 I am very glad to see you, and more than you know appreciate the blogosphere place in the hierarchy. WWF is as addictive as MW. I cannot imagine how some of my time while my husband was dying would have been whittled away had it not been for the online games I played with 15M of my closest friends 😛

      You have some reasonable and lovely goals, Lauren. I am so glad I would be a bit of support. <3 xxx Much love and many bright blessings for 2013.

      Reply
    • Wow! I am humbled, Lauren that my words brought out such wonderful and personal thoughts on the subject from you! I thank you many times over for reading and “getting” it!!!
      May 2013 bring you all the things you want and need and fewer of the things you don’t!!

      🙂
      BuddhaKat recently posted..First Friday Fractal Feature of 2013My Profile

      Reply
  2. Well done Janet!
    Yeah I’ve made some great friends in the ‘sphere (no facebook for me). As in real life there are degrees of friendship. Some I hang out in a bar with. Some I’ll have longer conversations with.
    And some are those that I’ve gone back and forth with, deep into the night, whether just goofing off, or having deeper conversations.
    The relationships I have in the virtual world are as fulfilling and valuable to me as the ones in real life.
    (And I don’t have to worry about looking presentable when I’m on!
    El Guapo recently posted..Beatnik Poetry Slam: RevolutionMy Profile

    Reply
  3. I have found much to comment the people on the web I socialise with.

    Having had more reason than most to mistrust people, I came to know and love my many friends across the planet and have to field around 200 emails per day as they chat and communicate, not only with me, but also the many others they are friends with.

    This gave me what I needed most: A purpose and a chance to escape the isolation that paranoid schizophrenia has left me with.

    This has led to personal growth and recovery so nowadays I attend church as often as I can, finances and health permitting.

    I have a whole new bunch of friends at church and I love them to death! 🙂

    Had blogging not been available I have no doubt I would not be as well as I am! 🙂

    So: Thanks to you my dear friends and God Bless you all!!!

    Prenin.
    prenin recently posted..Tuesday – A trip to the Co-Op.My Profile

    Reply
    • The interaction of the blogosphere is ;'[pppppppppppppppp”’ (<<< note from Beau) very supportive for many.

      Reply
    • I’m so happy that the “sphere” has brought you what many of us might take for granted! Your comments make me realize how great it is to be friends with so many wonderful f0lks, I just can’t say how much!!! THIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIS much!!!
      And thanks for letting my fractal grace the cover of one of your books! I can’t wait to read it! And the sequel too!!!
      Thanks for sharing your soul with us, Ian!!!

      🙂
      BuddhaKat recently posted..First Friday Fractal Feature of 2013My Profile

      Reply
  4. Recently someone I knew as a local kid of about age 12 (maybe an unconscious prototype for my character Vinne in Strong Coffee!!??), whom I’d found about a year ago via FB, sent me a chat message with a painting attached. When he showed me my signature and the date, and told me its history in his family, I was pleasantly shocked and immediately had memories that had lain dormant for years. He’s one of a handful of people I thought I’d never interact with again, but have through FB.
    As for friends made on other sites, there are VERY special people with whom I’ve emailed for a number of years, sharing news and opinions, both highs and lows, in ways I seldom do with local friends who aren’t as receptive to ideas and differences.
    Over the years, I’ve witnessed the passing of some net friends, not a few of whom have touched me deeply. I made a list of my sites and passwords for Chris, but haven’t updated it in awhile. Guess that’s rising to the top of my priority list. Thanks for such a thought-provoking and relevant post.

    Reply
    • I think you have touched on one of the most poignant points of the “only FAB friends” as I see it. Geography is a very limiting place with real boundaries in terms of being able to travel and get to places where we would otherwise meet more ppl of like mind; the ideologies know no such limitations as boundaries.

      Reply
    • Absolutely, RLB! It is so nice to share a joke or any other frivolity with a group I know will appreciate it’s full meaning (especially where plays on words are involved) than 99% of the FAB folks in my life.
      And there are few limits on the number of folks we can find to interact with on equal grounds, be it sense of humor, “inside” jokes or whatever the platform. I’ll take that kind of reunion any day over the “meet in the grocery store and “let’s do luch'” variety!
      Thank you very much for sharing.
      Yours is a great story I hadn’t thought of, as well. Reconnecting not only with people from our long lost past, but the memories that they bring to the table too!
      Besides, it’s embarrassing to run into someone whose name has completely escaped you, even though they sure remember yours!

      🙂

      Reply
    • Some of us do go back a few years, don’t we?
      Binky recently posted..Things To Do ListMy Profile

      Reply
  5. Janet, what a wonderful post! Thank you for this, truly. I have to say I have found my truest and closest friends on the internet, closer than my family, and friends here at home. I have two friends from childhood I am close to who are not on the internet, so it’s monthly phone calls to catch up. That’s can’t replace the intimacy and sharing and love and closeness I have found with my online friends. I am physically handicapped, so even getting out to see friends at home is difficult for me and I can’t sustain the friendships. But through this medium, I can. That, plus the intensity and duration of the friendships have an integrity of their own. After all, I met you here!
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Find My Books at Redmund Productions Bookstore!My Profile

    Reply
    • I was trying real hard not to make anyone uncomfortable, or embarrass them, but we have truly had a great opportunity, in the context of RP to learn about each other and already hold a place in each other’s hearts.
      Your situation is exactly what I meant, when thinking of the preconceptions that come with meeting in person. I think we all have something about ourselves, our appearance, our accent, our unruly hair that we wish would not be part of the equation, and that can be so in the virtual arena.
      I have a great deal of affection for the folks we “worked” with, even if there was no direct interaction. That is precisely what I meant speaking of a mutual goal, especially one very dear to our own hearts!!
      I’m so glad you got that!!!

      🙂
      BuddhaKat recently posted..First Friday Fractal Feature of 2013My Profile

      Reply
  6. Nice, thought provoking post, I never thought of some of these ideas, you raise some good questions…hmmm…got me thinking 😉
    Sage Doyle recently posted..“Nothing”My Profile

    Reply
  7. Hey Janet look at me…did you think I would be anywhere but here at the end 😉 if its not my blog or your blog we can nudge for that last in and keep score that we can both forget cause its all in good fun.. I have found some of the most meaningful connections and wonderful people here online in the past year and a half.. found a llevel of acceptance I do not know that I can find anymore IRL from those who are aware of my …shortcomings. they only seem to be shortcomings there. here they are who I am and I accept them as such because of the wonderful people I have here.. team Lizzie, the inner circle is made up of entirely virtual friends. It took sometime but I am a firm believer that the best friends can indeed be the ones you might not meet depending but all that is in the way is geography – I remember when Mark died and our discussion about friends and i think it is still in my box on deviant art.. it meant a lot to me and I think what you had to say was a real turning point for me in how I looked at efriends too. I have made some friends I value more than anything, and am meeting new ones too.. I just need to find my exact place and then put you all in the same room at one time 🙂 Love you and this was a great post.. very insightful and thought provoking.
    Lizzie <3
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..Edward Hotspur and the SQUEE!!!!My Profile

    Reply
    • Lizzie, you are always able to pull my heartstrings as we talk all over the blogosphere (teehee).
      Mark’s passing was a wake up call to me – I’d thought about all these things, but not very in depth. When I started writing about it, it helped me put some things into perspective and other things into better contexts!
      Thanks for your heartfelt comments – I can’t say what it was that first gave me clarity over our relationship. I delight in the fact that I can bump into you almost anywhere I go online!! I do know that from the start, I could tell you’re not someone with an agenda – you are simply a person, just like me – looking for real connection, wherever it may be found!!
      It sure does help when you feel you are being accepted for who you are, not who you aren’t or accepted despite our oddities, rather than being categorized because of them!
      Meta Love, Lizzie!!

      🙂

      Reply
  8. YES! LOVE THIS!! I feel like my Blog pals are some of the best/coolest/real/sincere people I have never met. They ‘get me’ and I ‘get them’… I never dreamed I would make such good friends here in virtual land, but I have and that is priceless!
    GingerSnaap recently posted..Edward Hotspur and The Empire Of BaconMy Profile

    Reply
    • I think we do because we are less concerned with those who might not like this or that…it is why there is a block button 😛

      Reply
    • Isn’t that so cool!!!
      And wouldn’t it be nice if some of the easy ways to connect (“like buttons” anyone), or, as Red says “block” features could be used with such ease and clarity IRL without worrying about the ripples of repurcussions that would follow!?!?!?!?
      I’m very glad this hit home for you MsSnaap!!!

      🙂
      BuddhaKat recently posted..A Profound Emotional Experience…My Profile

      Reply
  9. Janet,

    Thank you for writing this. I have not gotten to comment just my thoughts, but what I come away with is something which is political in fact, but poignantly relevant nonetheless: If Roosevelt had run a television campaign, we would never have elected him.

    The anonymity of the screen allows us to be who we are without the fear of immediate physical repercussions. We know we can always block or ignore those who would bully us for not living up to their standards, regardless of how those standards do not apply to us.

    I am honored to call you friend. For me, there was never an “e”.

    Much love,
    Red.

    Reply
    • See… goosebumps!!! I thank you very much Red, for this opportunity to allow my inner writer to speak!!
      Honestly, I mostly don’t differentiate between e- and RL friends, as well. But the passing of one whose presence had become a deep connection for me was rather an epiphany.
      I’m pleased to have friends through both paths that I just know will be lifelong, for the simple fact that we care about the other’s feelings and dreams and sadnesses!
      I often used to think of people I worked with like that – but I don’t think I’ve held onto even one relationship that started in that venue.
      Anyway, Red, thanks again for inviting me to talk on something that has been up front in my brain for a while now!!
      I too, am most happy and proud to call you FRIEND!!!
      LOTSA HUGS AND SUCH…

      🙂
      BuddhaKat recently posted..A Profound Emotional Experience…My Profile

      Reply
  10. Hey I am back again Red 😉 🙂
    I am just tweaking things, you know
    what I mean anyway but how wicked
    it is to be creating once again 🙂 Well
    my New Space needs lots of work yet
    but it is getting there slow but sure 🙂

    Thank you for being such a wickedly fine
    and great friend Red 🙂 hey that doesn’t
    mean that I will share all of my pancakes
    with you but hey you can have a bit 🙂 I
    might even let you have some of those
    pancakes too if you are good? 😉 lmao

    Geoff xxx

    Reply
    • And see, I knew you would share 😉 It will be all up to snuff just with your excitement to have a fresh canvas. A clean slate is always an open call to create. Glad I am along for the ride. Cheeky 😉

      Reply
    • Another fine example, here, Andro… I’ve barely gotten to know you but had sadness in my heart when you said you were leaving. I hope this means you’ll be back in all your glory, or starting a whole new glory!!!
      Enjoy your creativity, my friend!!

      🙂

      Reply

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