Do you have any online friends? Have you met any of them in the flesh or is it all just cyber chat? How do your virtual friendships rate against your real time ones?
I, like many others of my midlife generation, am to coin a phrase a “digital immigrant”. Born before the advent of the digital age that defines my children’s formative years, I have embraced it by default. Writing my blog has forced me to engage with technology in a way in which to be honest I am still not 100% confident or comfortable with, as well as adopt social media profiles which would, if they knew, have my teens rolling in the aisles.
When I started out on this foray into the digital unknown, however, I underestimated the ability of technology to connect you not only with like-minded people with a passion to be a scribe, but also with kindred spirits, with shared interests, opinions and values.
In the vast pool that is the World Wide Web the odds of that connection happening just once let alone more than that, appear relatively slim at the outset but I now know it is infinitely possible.
The value of female friendships is a subject close to my heart and when I last wrote on the subject just over a year ago I compartmentalised my friends broadly into my various life stages University, Work, Children. It never occurred to me then, or even when I started out on this journey, that Blogging would soon be sitting so comfortably alongside them.
Friendship is about connecting, about seeing eye to eye and blogging arguably sorts the wheat from the chaff quicker than many typical realtime scenarios.
The written word leaves you nowhere to hide so any engagement or otherwise is instantaneous. How many times have you put down a book never to pick it up again because it didn't grab you at the beginning? Similarly in the online world, if the connection is not there then flicking the off switch is rapid and invariably fatal and of course there is no need for an explanation, after all you don’t really know them.
In the blogosphere I am not a prolific social media user. Twitter and Instagram are my profiles of choice and more recently a bit of StumbleUpon. I picked them up as a means to promote my blog as that is what the self-help blogging guides tell you to do and more importantly to engage with others, but my usage is a bit haphazard to be honest. If I have something to share then I will dip in but otherwise I keep a relatively low profile in comparison to many others.
Despite this, however, I have a lovely selection of online soul-mates who I engage with about a variety of subjects that prick my interest. The obvious one as my title suggests is parenting teens, but then there is the vast array of general family and lifestyle subjects that connect us females worldwide and make us moan and smile. The menopause, skincare, fashion, fitness, entertainment, travel, interiors - the list is endless.
For the cynical, it is easy to be flippant about the value of any friendship nurtured in this virtual world. For me though over the last few weeks in particular the role and importance of my online female friends has been particularly accentuated, as I have shared details about my recent health status in a more brutal and intimate sense than I might have with some of my offline mates.
That is not to say I have shared more detail online than off, that is not the case at all. It simply comes back to the power of the written word. For those of us who enjoy writing we all know it is a cathartic process. It is emotive, personal, thoughtful and above all permanent. There is none of the raw transience of the spoken word, writing strikes directly at the heart of the matter and in the absence of face-to-face contact removes any behavioural awkwardness.
I have met only a few of my online friends in the flesh, yet I feel privileged and touched to have them all in my life whether we have connected through blogging, twitter or instagram. Every friendship has a role to play in our lives and my digital buddies have certainly enriched mine and are no less meaningful than any other. In my opinion, the value of a good friendship is found in its significance, not its physical proximity or its period of engagement.
What do you think? How valuable are your online friends? I would love hear to your thoughts.