Making it Real

A new blogger, whose posts I’ve come to enjoy, wrote yesterday of her realization that blogging does not provide the meaningful interactions with people she was hoping to find when she began a few months ago. She is someone who needs to have personal conversations face to face, she says, noting that she felt the need to “sit down over a cup of coffee” and really talk to the people who were reading her words and leaving comments on her posts.

I certainly respect that, though I will her miss her quirky and often poignant take on motherhood and marriage and the stuff of life. After reading her farewell post this morning, I started thinking about some of the other blogging friends who have passed through my life for a few months, maybe even years, at a time. People with whom I’d developed a “relationship” via the written word, people whom I considered friends, although just not the kind you can meet at the neighborhood java joint for a cup of coffee.

Are those relationships really less real because they aren’t conducted face to face? It’s true that being unable to talk in person also means being unable to “be there” for someone in all the physical ways we consider important in true friendship.  You can’t take homemade soup to her house when she’s sick, pick up her kids from school when she gets stuck at work, be a buffer between she and her mother in law at her annual holiday open house.

A few weeks ago I re-connected with a friend I hadn’t spoken with in over 20 years. Our children attended grade school together for about three years, and we became friends while working together on various school related projects. I was delighted that we found our way back to each other (via Facebook, of course, the great social data base.) When I walked into the restaurant where we had arranged to meet, I recognized her immediately, and my mind was flooded with memories of staying late at the school, putting up display boards, creating newsletters and mailings, going out for coffee after drop-offs in the morning. I had a huge cache of physical memories to call upon, memories that added great meaning to our reunion two decades later.

So I wondered – would I be able to have the same meaningful reunion with bloggers whom I had interacted with for that period of time? Truthfully, probably not. The depth of our connection wasn’t that great.

That isn’t to say that a deep personal connection can’t be formed through written communication. But you must be a person who is extremely comfortable expressing themselves through the written word. My son and daughter in law conducted their entire courtship via e-mail. This was almost 15 years ago, before Skype, and video cameras, and – yes!- even before Facebook. They grew to know and love each other through pages and pages of voluminous e-mails.

Obviously, the friendships we form in casual online connections aren’t that developed or that strong. I do think most times it takes a personal connection to create the kind of lasting bonds that characterize true friendship. I have met a few bloggers in person, and there are others I long to meet as well, people who, when I read their posts, I would love to sit down and share coffee with them, go for a walk by the river with them, settle into their front porch swing with a glass of wine. So I understand what Shelva meant yesterday about needing the deeper connection that personal interaction brings.

Still, I enjoy the connection I have with my blogging friends. It’s not completely real in every sense of the word, but there is a real sense of caring, encouragement, and support which is clearly communicated in each comment, blog post, or follow up e-mail.

That makes it real enough to matter to me.

How about you? Do you feel the need to make it real with your blogging friends? Or are you happy with the tangential online connection?

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15 thoughts on “Making it Real

  1. Well, I think you already know how I feel about blog friends! Those I’ve met have never disappointed me, being anything less than the person I expected them to be. But that says something for the blogs they write, as well. One can put so much of themselves into a post and when it is authentic, open, exploring the joys, concerns, fears, passions and mysteries of life, we come to know one another, sometimes better that those who see us daily know us. And when we do, the meet-up is definitely real and genuine.

    I know what you mean about not really being able to be there to take the soup or pick up the child from school. But I have found bloggers offer their gifts in other ways. A certain message or comment, a surprise in the mail, a random phone call, a surprise visit at an art show two hours away. I’ve had all these things happen to me with blog friends. In some cases, it was the bloggers who came through when things were tough, more than the people in daily life. I wonder if we “hear” each other differently because we don’t hear each other all the time?

    I suspect a factor can be what one’s life is at the time, our location, our flexibility. When you, Anno and I met for lunch in Ann Arbor, we all had to drive a bit, make an effort. And it paid off. When I travel and I meet a blog friend for lunch that I’ve never met before, it is a commitment of time for us both, of willingness to take a chunk of time from a day and take a chance that we are “who we are.” I’ve discovered that meeting fellow bloggies isn’t all that difficult — there may well be some just blocks away, as I discovered when Shoreacres introduced me to Ruth, who also works at my campus! It’s the looking, finding and doing that makes that happen, and sometimes our lives just don’t let it. Online is a good second best!

    • I know just what you mean about knowing someone through their posts. Oftentimes there are things that appear in my writing I didn’t even fully realize until I wrote it down. Blogging friends seem to pick up on that. There’s almost a spiritual connection which makes up for the lack of physical connection.

      I know you’ve met many other bloggers, and, as I found out when we met for lunch, it is an extremely rewarding experience!

      Thanks for that thoughtful comment 🙂

  2. Becca,
    I have appreciated your comments over the past few months on my posts and you are one of those people I would love to have coffee with at some point. I deeply appreciate the people in the blogging world and wish I had the time and energy to keep moving forward with it. At this point in my life with two small children, moving, a husband with a new small business and trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up continuing to blog was life draining for me. I am barely able to keep up with the relationships in my day to day life in a way that feels authentic and honest to me so letting go of this was a necessary for me own soul. Thanks for your feedback and kind words. I look forward to reading your blog as life allows. Blessings

    • Shelva, you have so much going on in your life right now, I can sure see why adding one more thing was more draining than rewarding!

      Just know that I enjoyed your perspective, your writing style, and your outlook. You always gave me something to think about, and if you ever want to write (a blog or a book!) I think you’ll find readers who will appreciate your point of view 🙂

      My best to you and your family…

  3. I am fairly new to the commenting part of the blogging scene, having only been doing it for about two years. I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing new friends through blogs and do feel a connection with some of them more than others. I guess it’s what they write about that piques my interest as well as who they may cite on a blog that gets me curious about another blog. I probably only follow about 20 blogs because I just don’t have the time to do more and I feel guilty when I don’t get a chance to see what someone has said on a particular day.

    I found your blog thru two mutual friends, Angie and Andra and I enjoyed your thoughts on your pending retirement and now the pending grandson. I am approaching retirement in less than two years and your thoughts on it were quite helpful and very entertaining.

    I will say that we have had two Blog Parties in Charleston thanks to Andra and it really was a lot of fun to meet folks in person. I know that it gave us even better connections. So, I think that connecting thru blogs can be very real most of the time, but, a personal sit down with a cup of coffee or a glass (or three) of wine makes for a deeper connection.

    • The fact that we feel a sense of responsibility to our blogging friends (and I do as well!) is proof that there is a real connection there. One of the things Shelva (the woman I referred to in my post) was concerned about was the amount of time she felt she needed to devote to blogging. Her life is so busy right now, and she felt overwhelmed by another obligation.

      Luckily, I have time (most of the time) to devote to the online relationships, and still keep up with my real relationships and responsibilities!

      Another reason to like “retirement!”

  4. I think that our ability to communicate through different social media portals is both positive and negative at the same time. The positive part of the picture for me is that social media has broadened my horizons and has enabled me to meet people online that I would never have met in my day to day routine. When you meet new people who are different from oneself it allows you to be exposed to different cultures, religions and view points. I think that the negative part of online communications is that it does take a genuine effort for all parties to be real. Lets face it, not everyone on our Facebook friends list are really our friends. We may be connected in one way or the other through other relationships but we can only devote so much of our time to true friendships. One of the negatives of online communications is that it is difficult to convey your true feelings if you are not a good wordsmith. It is also very easy to get caught up in the online world and not want to wander out into the 3 dimensional world and be with humans. Thanks to the Charleston meetups and tweetups I was coaxed by several folks to pull away from the monitor and be social for a change. In a lot of ways that has helped me make better connections in person.

    • James, you’re so right – it is very easy to hide behind your online persona. It’s safe, and it’s easier. There are good and bad things about that, as you discussed so well in your very thoughtful comment.

      I definitely think we need more real social communication than we’re getting these days. So it’s great when you have blogger meet-ups and can get to know some of the people you’ve met online.

  5. It’s real, just different and not a substitute. I’ve become good friends with some people I met in forums or other online venues–but when great distances are involved, having a cup of tea together is still a challenge!

    • It’s kind of old and new at the same time, this relationship we make through writing. If you think about people in past centuries who used letter writing to maintain long term relationships, then it’s really old. Of course, with all the instant technology, that makes it very new.

      Still have to figure out the cup of tea thing, though!!

  6. Such a great post. I would love to know my blogging friends in person. I wish to sit down to tea with so many of them. As for whether these friendships are ‘real’ or have meaning, I believe they are and do. There are many ways to measure the depth of a friendship. It is entirely possible that someone who is able to bring me soup can not comfort me or lift my heart the same way another who sends a thoughtful note or makes a spontaneous phone call can. True connections are powerful no matter how they are made.

    • “There are many ways to measure a friendship.” That is so true, Melissa. There are many ways to support and nurture each other too. Our blogging friends speak to a special part of us.

      You are definitely on my “cup of tea” list!

  7. There’s no question that, for me, relationships formed and maintained online are as real and satisfying as those in my daily life. Granted, there are some things online friends can’t do – like take you to the airport or bring you soup when you’re sick – but there are things people in our physical circle often can’t do, either.

    When I began blogging, one of my intentions was to be as honest as possible – not in the sense of telling every detail of my life, but rather by making sure that the words I wrote were true expressions of my convictions and beliefs. As a result, there isn’t an “online persona” that differs one whit from who I am in “real life”. There are a few unshared details, but that’s always true even with family and friends.

    It does take time and effort to develop and maintain any relationship, that’s for sure – and I’m moving into a time of my life now where with a little extra effort I’ll be able to meet a few folks I know only online. But even so, there’s been a lot of recipe-swapping, Christmas card sending, and so on. It’s just plain fun!

    • Your honesty, i.e. Your revelation of your true expressions and beliefs, is clear in each one of your posts and comments. It is by expressing ourselves honestly that we grow the best relationships in blogging and in real life, too. Thank you for being a blogging friend who does that so well!

  8. blogging can be as real or unreal as real life meetings. I’ve met bloggers and it was just like we knew each others for ages. Then I must admit that these are usually people I also find on Facebook or instant messaging.

    I’ve also had more than once the situation that I seem to get to know & value blogger friends really well. I follow their lives via their blog & FB on a daily basis and they stop by on mine very often. When writing posts or when doing things, I start thinking of them, wondering how they’d respond, what their opinion would be or it reminds me on something they are going through etc…..like real life friends, they seem to be part of my life.
    And then all of a sudden they decide that blogging takes up too much of their time, they lose interest in it and all of a sudden they disappear online. and that feels so strange. I don’t get that. I was genuinely interested in how they are doing and they are all of a sudden gone.

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