On internet friendships

I’ve been thinking about internet friendships today and there value and some of the issues they raise for me.

This has been prompted by the scarcity of communication in an internet friendship that I once held very dear. He hasn’t replied to my last contact after two months and before that we communicated a few times over a month and before that he didn’t reply for two months as well. It hurts because this is someone whom I used to message quite regularly and skype with every few weeks over a sustained period of time.

I guess it raises wider questions for me about the value of internet friendships particularly in SSA circles. I feel that they often begin with intense conversation as we share about our lives and dealing with SSA and then kind of fizzle out. Or alternatively communication occurs only when the other person wants someone to whine to or needs advice.

When it comes to friendships I’m something of a romantic. I feel things deeply, so if we’ve happened to share a part of our life for a period then I feel like we could be friends for life. Obviously there are variations in the intensity of friendship based on availability and location and work, but I’d like to think I’ll still be talking and sharing life with people I know now in 30 years’ time.  Even when I notice that acquaintances have defriended me from facebook, I feel disappointed as I enjoy taking the opportunity to see what they’re up to once or twice a year.

My biggest times of acquiring internet friends occurred when I was studying. This meant I was at home sitting on the internet during the night in America, which meant I could skype and chat with American SSA guys. This in turn led to the highlight of my internet friendship life when I went to America and met up/stayed with five different guys. An experience I would not trade. Last year when I was completing my Masters it meant many weekends sitting at home on the internet and more chatting. This year this has changed as I have no reason to be at the laptop seeing who comes online. More often I’ve been doing work or gardening or seeing friends or family. This has also coincided with a decreased internet presence from the people I used to talk to so even if I was sitting there the chances of someone coming on are slim.

This is not to say that every internet friendship I’ve had has turned bad. But communication has decreased and become less frequent. Some of my best ones, that continue to this day, are somewhat limited by the nature of the internet. As we are so close and so compatible, they’re the kind of people you’d go and see a film with or go for a run with every week rather than have a deep and meaningful chat for two hours every seven days. However, I would not dispose of them and accept the realities and enjoy the fact we usually skype about once a month and message a few times between then.

Other times I feel that internet friendships involve a season of someone being in need and seeking help, and then when they get happier or decide to get a boyfriend they discard the people who they used to talk to in a search for something else. This has happened and leaves me feeling used.

Since I have been burnt to some extent I haven’t tried so hard in internet friendships. Previously, I would have checked in on people frequently and tried to sustain conversations. If I’ve messaged someone and they haven’t replied I will send another one a couple of weeks later just in case it got lost in busyness, but I’m not going to write an epic. These days if someone is chatting to me and giving one word answers or using emicons, I don’t feel pressure to make the conversation happen. I’m happy to lower my level of effort to theirs and if that results in the end of the conversation oh well.

My busyness also contributes. When teaching I really have no inclination to come home and type for hours and that’s if I can come home and do anything other than marking or preparation with my time. In some ways my busyness has meant that I don’t notice the lack of communication in internet friendships until the term break arrives every two months. It also means that I am not overbearing these days even if perhaps I used to be. My approaching holidays are the reason I even have time to write this blog.

Maybe this comes across as a whine and to be honest, I do have a cold at the moment, so am more inclined to look on the negative side of things. I also feel that maybe I should just suck it up and accept that God has used me for a season in people’s lives and while it’s unfortunate to be discarded, I was faithful during the period I was wanted. I don’t know.

I’m interested in anyone’s thoughts on this issue in general.