Friday, April 8, 2011

Are you sure you're not a 52-year-old man sitting there in your boxers?

If I'd had a personal computer before I met and married TG, I'm not sure the wedding would have happened.

Don't get me wrong--I adore TG way more than my computer (honest, honey!). I'm just not sure I would have been out in the world enough to even meet him. I would have been online, writing away in the cyber world, instead wiggling my bait onstage at Melodrama Theater.

As much as technology brings people together who might never have met otherwise, I have to wonder how much it also keeps people apart.

Online friendships are easy. You connect at your convenience with like-minded people. Unlike in real life, you can hit pause when the other person gets annoying, or when you feel yourself on the verge of becoming annoying yourself. You only have to show the Best o' You to the online world. Frankly, it's a pretty good gig.

Real life relationships are a bit trickier. It's not as easy to disguise your warts.

Having a bad hair day? No hiding behind that convenient avatar in real life. (Trust me. You do not want to know what I look like right now.)

Feeling particularly snarky? In the actual world, you can't edit the bitchiness that comes out of your mouth before you hit "send."

Attacked by The Dumb? No closing that laptop and laying low offline until your usual smarts return. No pretending that "snappy" comeback didn't take you half an hour to perfect.

Which is a real (*ahem* get it?) shame, when you think of it. Wouldn't it be cool if all those protective shields the internet supplies somehow applied in real life, too? 

Like when you oversleep and don't have time to wash your hair, much less iron your clothes. No worries! The world would only see the self-approved version of you that you settled on one morning when you woke up on time and dressed in clothes you had the foresight to iron the night before.

Or when you get drunk at the company party and make a pass at the boss. You could just claim some practical joker "hacked your account." Instant plausible deniability.  Or even delete your identity and reinvent yourself as a whole new persona. TADA! Problem solved.

Alas, that's just a pipe dream. You are what you are in real life, without ready do-overs or much leeway to pretend to be someone you're not.

But there are some advantages to keeping it real. When you make a love connection in the real world, you can at least be certain the person looks (mostly) like what you're seeing, and isn't (like TG used to warn me when I was first getting into online writing communities) really a 52-year-old fat man sitting at his computer in nothing but his boxers, drinking a beer.

I think there's something to be said for that kind of certainty.

What do y'all think? Is the internet more of a barrier or a bridge to good interpersonal relationships?

19 comments:

Teri Anne Stanley said...

Ummm...yes. I think it's both! I find that it's easier to be honest online when you don't have to see the reaction of the person you are talking to. I've "met" a lot of really great people here online, some of them I've even met in person, and they were awesome.

On the other hand, since the internet allows us to be who we want to be, we can be horribly disappointed with people in real life. There is a man that I chat with over email (he's my kid's coach, I'm not cheating on TBG), and I just love the witty banter that we engage in. In person? Can't STAND him. What comes across as funny online is pompous and icky in person.

And as for the 52 year old fat man in his underwear...why isn't that image as frightening to me as it used to be?

I lost a lot of weight one time and a rather crude friend of mine commented that the girls still looked nice. I told him that was a result of Victoria's Anti-Gravity Secret. He said, "That's okay, *eybrow wiggle* you can leave it on." Sometimes the fantasy just needs to stay a fantasy...

Karla Nellenbach said...

I think it can be both. I've made some great computer friends...but I've also been found by some questionable characters. I guess you just have to take the bad with the good and be able to tell the difference between the two...er...is this your way of telling me, you're actually a 52 year old fat guy sitting there in boxers? if so, i'm a little scared, cuz I know for a fact you have Daniel Craig locked in your basement.

Summer Frey said...

I've always been pro-computer, but maybe that's because my generation was the first that was truly raised with computers. Sure, they were ancient and didn't do much, but we could play games, by God! And by the time I was a "tween" I was meeting people online. I was never stupid, of course, and I made a friendship through an online game that I actually still have today--14 years later. And we've met in person.

I think the biggest downside is meeting people whom you adore, but they live halfway across the country--or the world. Then it's just disappointing.

Jen J. Danna said...

I think the internet is the best of bridges for interpersonal relationships. But then again, that's how I found my writing partner (who lives 1600 miles away), so I'm bound to be biased! But I've made some wonderful long term friendships over the internet with people who live in places that would have never allowed actual meeting otherwise. That's one of the things that I love most about the internet - connecting with far flung people that seem to be practically next door, but are really on the other side of the world.

Anne Gallagher said...

I think online friendships are great, just for the reasons you posted. The edited snark and bed head we don't see. Meeting like-minded people thousands of miles away.

I personally like the anonymity of it all and am truly scared to death to meet someone from the online community. Not that I have anything to hide, but I've always been disappointed when meeting people in person after I've met them online. (Of course this is due to the fact, I did do online dating for awhile in my 30's.) I realize this is totally different, but now my fear is what if they're disappointed with me.

Steph Schmidt said...

Echoing what another commenter said about the computers were always around, they were for me. I enjoyed being able to talk more with friends from school online because I hated the phone and the pressure to always have something witty to say. Also my parents then didn't get irked about the phone line being tied up.

As for friends online, I've met a few who are fantastic enough I'd be willing to meet them in person in a public place with a friend in toe. Safety first etc. etc. But like real life there are only a handful in the bunch that get sandwiched in that category. The rest it's mostly a raised eyebrow or a laugh then I click elsewhere.

Trisha Leigh said...

So I just left this really long, thought out comment and then blogger ate it and refused to burp it back up onto your comment page. Short and sweet - both are right. The internet has allowed me to meet so many writers who have contributed in some way in helping me come along in my career and I would never have met so many of them, or such a wide variety, in person.

That said, TG is right (he's so smart!). We need to be careful in thinking that online relationships would survive without the computer or phone in between us. Real life relationships take exponentially more commitment to the other person and your very "best" online friends may not have the time/interest in taking on the responsibility of friendship.

Also, love the new profile pic, lady!

Jennifer Shirk said...

Oooh, deep question. LOL

I don't know. I think it's pretty good bridge for relationships. When I have met up with people that I met over the internet is was like we knew each other forever in person. Kind of strange (but good) phenomenon.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I'm still relatively new to the whole blogging and tweeting (darn you!)world, but I'm surprised at how much I've been enjoying it. There are some amazing people out there, and it's great to make these connections, even if they ARE a tad "faux" at times.

As for real life, wouldn't it be great if we had something comparable to control/alt/delet??

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

So wish I had the luxury in face-to-face conversations of editing or rewriting my responses before they shot out my mouth! That's the number one advantage to online conversations, for me.

Love your new avatar pic! Happy weekend!

Linda G. said...

Teri -- LOL! Yeah, I hear ya. Sometimes the best thing about a fantasy is that it IS a fantasy. :)

Karla -- Shhh. Don't tell anybody, okay?

Summer -- Yeah, it's hard when you live so far apart that the chances of meeting are slim. OTOH, that might not be such a bad thing. Maybe some friendships work better that way.

Jen -- You're right -- anyone can be your "neighbor" on the internet.

Anne -- I think online dating would be a totally different beast. A different set of expectations. Friendships developed over similar interests -- like writing -- are somehow more natural. Or real. Or something like that. IMO, anyway.

Steph -- Absolutely! Safety must always be your first consideration. You sound like a smart cookie. :)

Trisha -- Thanks! :) And, ugh. Sorry about your commenting problem. Blogger does that to me sometimes, too. I've taken to copying my comments before I hit send. That way, if Blogger eats them, I just have paste & try again.

True, what you say about real life relationships vs. online.

Jennifer -- Yeah, the online friends I've met in person have been almost exactly as I've pictured them. That's heartening.

Susan -- LOL! Oh, yeah. I would dearly love a control/alt/delete button in real life.

Nicole -- Absolutely! I love to rewrite. It would be great to be able to do it in real life.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Hold on, let me check.
Nope, not 52.
Not a man.
Not wearing boxers.
I'm good to go.

I DO wish we could use those great internet excuses to wipe away our real-life flub-ups: hackers, bad typing, etc.

out of the wordwork said...

Great post. I do think it is 'easier' to connect online - especially if you have a common interest. I've gotten a lot of support from people I've met via message boards and through twitter. But there's nothing like the face to face and voice to voice to bring it to a deeper level of friendship. Not to say the cyber talk doesn't help those friendships along when they do meet - it's just that I think the friendship can only go so far if it stays on line. Maybe I'm wrong but, like you said, it's showing the warts and sticking around anyway that really cements a relationship.

Linda G. said...

Dianne -- Whew. I'll add you to my Not a 52-year-old Man Wearing Boxers list.

Nelsa -- True. There's a different level of intimacy to be had with someone who can't hide behind pixels, I think.

Kelly Breakey said...

I think the internet makes us less social, not more so. As you said you guys only see what we want to show. Some people are certainly more out there in what they share about themselves, while others choose to temper their true selves with a comedic touch.

I think I fall somewhere in between. But I don't want to trade in the true personal relationships I have developed in person or even the ones I have built via my social networking. I have made some really great connections online.

I think we find it easier to support people when we only have to do it in 160 characters or less b/c there really is no long term investment. It is harder to sit with a friend and hold their hand when a parent falls ill b/c then you are really giving of your true self and I don't know anyone who can do that in a 160 characters or less.

abby mumford said...

i think it can be both. you have to set boundaries and be smart with your online self, but it can grow into a community, which i've so richly discovered.

also, we need to remember to take the time to step away from the computer and nurture our offline relationships as well.

it, like everything else it seems, requires balance.

Linda G. said...

Kelly -- True. And I'm one of those tempers with humor. Of course, I tend to do that in real life, too, not just online.

Abby -- Absolutely, about the community. The online writing community is full of kind and generous people. If there are any A-holes in the bunch, I haven't run into them yet. :) You're right about the balance, too. Essential, I think, for a healthy existence. :)

Maery Rose said...

Great post! I've heard of people that really "connect" on line meeting in person and discovering they can't stand each other. I hate to think that people are really that different in person. That hasn't been my experience with the people I've met so far. But I do know that editing does make me appear more clever than I really am. But on the honesty front, I am actually more honest in writing because of the opportunity to think things out. In person, I'd just say nothing at all.

Hallie said...

Great post, Linda. I have been sitting here thinking and hope that the people I have met online (the writing community) would be the same in person. However, I am not that naive to believe that. Online, the best one-liners, the snappy comebacks, and the thought-provoking questions all have been spit-shined and polished.

But I do think we are drawn to things in common, and that happens regardless if it is online or in person. That is the basic foundation for all friendships. I think online friendships though do require less commitment, however, I feel any relationship is whatever both parties put into it.

Nothing beats a phone call or a face-to-face get together. However, there is Skype....