Laurie wrote a fantastic post over at BlogHer this morning on the topic of online friends. Laurie was specifically talking mostly about blogging friends, as is the relevant post-BlogHer subject, but I think most of what she's got to say is germane to other types of online friends as well.
And it inspires a proclamation:
Hello, my name is Grace, and I have online friends, some of whom I have met in person and some of whom I have not. I am truly blessed to have these friends, just as I am to have the friends I met in more "traditional" ways. Having online friends is not a sign of my "dorkiness" or social antagonism, it's a sign of my willingness (as well as their willingness) to reach across physical distance and bond with people. My online community is, in its way, just as important a part of my community as the people who surround me physically. I communicate with many of them on a near-daily basis, and they provide one of my most persistent and important support networks. I appreciate them more than I could ever say.
I've thought a lot about this, and I don't think it's cowardly to have "online friends." I don't think it's fake, or really, in any essential way, different than having "real life" friends. I'm at a place in my life now where a large number of the friends I have who were originally "real life" friends have become mostly online friends by virtue of our having moved to different parts of the continent, and there is really very little difference between those relationships and the ones that have flourished mostly online from the start.
It's just not in me to think that communication, whether it's in written or verbal form, is bad. Often, when I'm posting here or writing a mammoth email, I think of the days of extensive letter writing, a la Dangerous Liaisons, and I have to wonder how much has really changed. People have been communicating writing for centuries, and whether that writing gets encrypted as 1s and 0s and send over wireless lines or takes the pen and paper approach, it's the same thing. We're able to do it in what amounts to more-or-less real time now, but the driving force behind it, the need to connect and communicate, is the same, and I embrace that.
So I wanted to say thanks to my Internet friends, particularly the ones who do me the great honor of reading my rambles here at WINOW. I really do appreciate you, and I hope I can come somewhere close to doing for you what you've done for me.