I recently had a back-and-forth e-mail conversation with a good Internet friend, author Jenny Milchman. We were talking about our friends–the ones we’d never seen in person, and the ones we had actually been able to reach out and hug. In one message Jenny said something like this: “Good friends are the ones we can eat cake with and we don’t mind if frosting gets on our nose.”
Oh wow, did that get me thinking.
I have heard myself speaking fairly frequently about someone I call “My good friend —————.” Then I stop, smile to myself, and realize I have never met this person–anywhere but on the Internet, that is. I participate on several lists geared to mystery fans and writers (mystery writing being my field) and conversations both off and on list develop there. I am a member of several Facebook groups and meet people there. I meet people on blogs, both mine and theirs. I read books, and get to know the authors through their writing and by seeing their websites and making other Internet connections with them. And I call these people “my good friends. “ We communicate in cyberspace, “meet” on lists, on my Facebook page, through blog comments.
Last weekend my husband and I participated in what is probably the mid-USA’s largest writer’s conference, the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation Conference held every May in Oklahoma City. OWFI draws writers from many states in the south and central area–and a few outside here, with New York and California being primary on that list. There are several tracks of talks and panels over two and a half days, plus a number of “extra pay” special sessions. The talks I chose to attend were very helpful. Yes. And they were one relatively small reason I went.
What else is there?
SPENDING TIME WITH A LARGE NUMBER OF WRITING FRIENDS WHO CAN SEE ME WITH FROSTING ON MY NOSE!
I had the terrific experience of sitting down with four other writers I’ve known for a while to enjoy both casual and heart-to-heart chats. I met new people. During breakfast I sat at round tables on three different mornings and enjoyed (mostly) listening to the chatter. (Embassy Suites was host hotel–terrific breakfasts.) I could hug and be hugged. None of this virtual stuff. I have met and chatted with many of these people on line, but, when I do, I hear their voices, I see them in 3-D and living color. In most cases, we have actually touched hands!
Facebook? No. Meeting there tends to be impersonal, posts are often stating the poster’s personal agenda. I have read communications on my wall that run a range from “We had pizza for dinner–yum,” to sharp political and religious rants. Sure, that’s far from all, and communication on Facebook can be good and helpful, but, for me at least, much of the time it remains impersonal, separate from real human communication.
E-mail is better. At least that’s one-on-one, relatively private, and can ramble like real conversation does.
Recently our great-nephew, who’s graduating from high school with honors this weekend, corresponded with me. He sent me a letter. Oh yes, I can see bits from his multitude of Facebook communications every day, and I see him in person a couple of times a year. But this time, oh my goodness, an envelope came in the mail. Envelope with a stamp, an address written in ink. And inside–THE LETTER. A real ink on paper hand-written letter. Not even written on a computer and printed out. (I wonder if I shouldn’t take it to my safe-deposit box in the bank. I think you all understand what an incredibly rare thing it may be, and how valued by one honored aunt.)
As for you and me? Well, here we are in cyberspace. Oh how I wish you could see me with frosting on my nose!
Your friend, Radine