Thursday, January 15, 2004

I guess I'll weigh in with my two cents about online friendships...I've been reading some touching blogs lately, and it's a shame to see people so sad. It's not my intention to sound preachy. I only hope to make you feel better, if you're in that position.

At the ripe old age of 45 (well, at least for a couple more months), I think I've learned a thing or two about my friends, including the face to face ones, the ones I know by paper and pen, and the ones I know online.

Face to face friends, (even if you don't see their faces very often) are much more likely to let go of little gaffs (intentional or unintentional) that you make. And you are more likely to be tolerant of them. And over time, we come to realize that the person who is making you spit tacks today may be the person who really comes through for you tomorrow. And vice-versa. Maybe your kid is stuck somewhere and needs a ride and yesterday's idiot becomes today's saving grace. Maybe your husband leaves you and the person you thought was a real jerk comes to your side to comfort you. And to put the shoe on the other foot, maybe the person you've wronged needs help and you just jump in there with a casserole, or offer some heart-felt words when you run in to her at the grocery store. So you see, face to face friends have these chance encounters and opportunities to "make up", so to speak. We have the chances to make small talk at gatherings, and smooth over any rough spots. Because we all live in a community, and we really need and most often can find something to genuinely like about each other. We really want to have friends and be friends to others. Fred Rogers once said something like that if you knew a person's whole "story", you couldn't help but love them and I really believe that's true. And in a face to face friendship, you just have more chances to learn their story.

Oh sure, even in face to face friendships there are people who hold grudges and act weird. But it doesn't seem to last forever. And if you're a normal, socially adept person, I think you take some comfort in behaving politely in the face of that, and eventually the other person will come around and begin to act normal, too.

IMHO, I don't think that pen pal and online friends have those type of opportunities. It's easy to cut someone off and never explain why, because you'll never have to face them again. You'll never see them at a family wedding. You won't serve with them on a PTO committee. You can throw away their letters. You can block their emails, kill file their posts, etc. You can totally eliminate encounters, but it's just not the real world. Chances to be friendly, if not best friends again, are eliminated.

And maybe there are some people out there who can't function socially in the real world, so the online world is where they hang out. And those are the goofy people who just can't relate nicely online, but there are no social consequences to them. And they end up hurting the genuinely nice, socially normal people. So you know what?? Screw-em. They're probably nuts anyway.

Please don't misconstrue what I'm saying about online and paper and pencil friendships! I don't mean to say that finding friends on line and by pen pals is not possible. I'm just saying be careful. Be smart. And if you are one of the nice people, who is genuine and normal and all that, you may run into a social screwball or two and it's just by chance, not by your design. There's no changing other people. But don't fall into a hurtful trap. Examine your actions. If you messed up, apologize. If they don't have the grace to go back to being nice to you online, they probably aren't people you'd hang out with in real life. So let them go, at least for now.

You know, I've learned a lot from older friends. For a few years we had a stitching group here at the lake, and I was the youngest member. These friends would tell stories that could curl your hair, but despite whatever had happened between them and other people, they still remained friends. When I'd ask them HOW they ever got over that, mostly they just shrugged. Like "oh-well, now it seems like it was no big deal." And I've hoped to develop that grace ever since then.

If you are in this sad situation, I hope a word or two I've said here makes you feel better. This is the mind-set that works for me, and I hope it can help you in some small way, too.

No stitching news today!

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