Category: Shifting Perspectives Written by Nimue Brown
Recently I saw someone blithley professing on the internet that they don’t want to make online friends with people they don’t know in person. It’s a common enough thought, but also a problematic one.
First up, the definite ableism and potential classism. There are a lot of disabled people who can’t get to events and meet people in person first. The internet is a social lifeline. We should respect that and not refuse to connect with people who have no options about how they socialise. On top of that, for many people poverty is a real barrier to being out and about in person, and I don’t think we should require people to be wealthy enough to have a social life in order to be open to having them as friends.
I belong to a number of communities that are not defined by where I live. There are a handful of steampunks in Stroud, and far more online. The same is true of Druids, Pagans, folky people, authors, and so forth. I’m much more interested in connecting with people I have something in common with beyond happening to live in the same place.
Making friends online is only problematic if one or both of you are misrepresenting yourselves. It can be tempting – especially for those of us who are also selling ourselves as a product – to be misleading. It can be tempting even if the internet isn’t part of your job, to paint an unrealistic picture of yourself. We all want to seem exciting and on top of things, and if you take that too far you can end up seeming like someone you are not.
I’ve certainly had the kinds of internet relationships that didn’t work because the other person was faking a lot of things and/or assuming that was true of me. Some of those people I also knew in real life. With hindsight, it’s obvious that the fakery wasn’t something peculiar to the internet. Many people invest a lot of effort in appearing to be things they are not. When the mask finally slips, all bets are off.
Sometimes the mask slips and what you find underneath turns out to be more complex and wonderful than you could dare to hope, of course. Sometimes who a person pretends to be is much smaller and tamer than they really are.
I’m entirely open to online friendship. I have friends around the world, some of whom I’ve been able to meet in person, which has been great. I’ve started friendships online and grown them in person. I’ve met people fleetingly at events and done the real relationship stuff with them via social media. If you are real, then your interactions are real and the medium you use is of no consequence.
About Nimue Brownp; Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings.
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