I met someone on the Internet years ago. We were friends, as much as two people can be who have never met each other face to face. I think that we probably shared the most honest relationship I have ever formed with someone over a computer. He was a great friend and helped me through a lot of really emotional stuff that I wasn’t equipped to deal with alone and when you relocate across the country away from your support system, no matter how many friends you make, you’re dealing with a lot of shit alone. The best part about it was that he didn’t judge me, he just let me rage, vent cry and scream (as loudly as one can on IRC) and when I was finished, we’d talk about his day and his life and how things were going for him, he would rage, vent or cry if he needed to and then we’d go role play for a while. We didn’t role play all that much, just when we were both bored. Mostly, we chatted about everything under the sun.
We talked about books and movies and music and politics and religion and philosophy. He was probably the best friend I had for a very long time and I’ve never seen his face. He was just some guy I knew over the Internet that passed countless hours with me and made me feel a lot less lonely.
He moved on at some point. I’m not sure when or how it happened. Even though we never said why, I do believe that I know the reason and it’s not important. We both moved on when we needed to. I don’t even have an IRC client installed on my computer anymore, I doubt that he does either.
I still think about him though. I still wonder how he’s doing. Is he still out there looking for his elusive dream girl, a tall, gorgeous knock out of a woman that could hold her own in a conversation with him about the defining qualities of a good fantasy novel? Is he still struggling to write that book that we’d both been talking about writing for years? One thing about the two of us is for sure, we would write one HELL of a fantasy novel together, our writing styles complimented each other well. I know that my writing has certainly improved. I can’t imagine his doing anything but improving as well. I also wonder how much he’s written in the last ten years, I wonder if he’s written as much as I have. I wonder so many things and I may never know what he’s up to. I will probably never talk to him again and that makes me so sad. There are things I would tell him now that time has passed and I’ve done a lot of growing up, things that I will never be able to say.
Isn’t it funny that I have such strong feelings as this, over someone I’ve never met face to face?
I didn’t have to look into his eyes to connect with him. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve interacted with electronically that I have connected with in this way.
This is how it is though, when you meet strangers over the Internet. The world in which we did those things, met completely random people from all over the world, is fading. Through Facebooks and Twitters, we’re condensing ourselves back into these teeny little niches. We’re not branching out much beyond our families and the friends we made in high school, what’s the need? I wonder still, how much more the Internet will change us.
I was born and raised in a time where kids didn’t have cell phones. If I wanted to go out to play, I had my butt home before dark and I knew darned well what “before dark” meant. My mother, if she was looking for me, would step out the front door and call my name, or send my dad out to find me and it wasn’t something to panic over until they looked in the usual five places. When I wasn’t there, then they would panic.
My kids grew up in a world that was so vastly different from mine, that sometimes I wonder how it is that we can understand each other. I wonder how much they have been harmed and helped by those differences. They do not know a world where the Internet did not exist. That’s an eye opener for me.
In spite of my concerns for the future of my kids, I’ve embraced the internet for myself in my daily life, for good or ill. I adopted a dog over the internet from about 1500 miles away, a million questions were asked first, but she flew to me and we had a wonderful life together and I still miss her every day. I adopted Jazzmin and Lexi the same way, though the distance was shorter and there were meetings first. I’ve also got a massive collection of ebooks. I would like to tell you that it’s out of an abundance of love for our planet, but actually, dead tree books, or DTBs as they have come to be known in my house, are just too damned heavy to stuff in a purse and an iPad Mini does the job a million times better, without becoming permanently scarred if a couple of raindrops fall on it.
I won’t even get started on my iTunes library. We had to get a really, really big, really, really fast network drive to store all of my media. When I’m not hanging out with my dogs, I watch movies and TV Shows– which, now that I think about it, also means that I’m hanging out with my dogs, since they tend to pile on top of me whenever I sit on the sofa. I consume content via streaming video like mad. At one point, my husband was concerned that my use of Netflix was going to have our ISP making phone calls to us about the amount of bandwidth I was sucking down in a month.
All of that stuff, is Internet stuff and all of it is great, but it lacks that human connection that I had in the days when the Internet was a younger place, back when MIDI files were how you put music on your web page and you could get up early, or stay up late, just to talk to your friends that lived in Australia.
The world felt smaller then and now it feels overwhelmingly large.
Maybe the world hasn’t really changed at all and what’s changed is me.