She kissed him good morning last Saturday, as she always did, but there was something different about it. She seemed distracted and anxious to get the a.m. greeting over. He asked her about it, fully ready to right a wrong, or settle a misunderstanding. Instead of a conflict, though, she answered that she was busy “getting a hammer for a friend.” No problem, he thought. A neighbor was engaging in some home improvement projects. “But why didn’t he have his own hammer?” the man thought. As it turned out, the neighbor was real but was a neighbor only in the sense that he shared a hobby with the wife. They were states apart playing World of Warcraft together, and the hammer was needed for a “quest.” Gildshire knows this kind of thing goes on every day and everywhere. We wondered if it was having an impact on real life. Have you lost that lovin’ feeling?
Is this a real thing?
This is isn’t a question solely born in the mind of Gildshire. Google “cyber friends instead of real friends,” and find pages of discussion about this real dilemma. Surprisingly enough, there are some loud voices, shouting that cyber friends are actually better than real friends. It seems that in-person intimacy feels stressful, and even dangerous, to a growing cadre of people.
Does it have to be one or the other? Can’t it be both?
First of all, one has to decide about the loud voices from the paragraph above. Because if a person immerses themself in online friendships, to the exclusion of real-life relationships, there is no return. All of the perks and props of calling someone “friend” will be invested online.
But what if that sounds kind of lonely? What if I want a healthy balance?
Balance is an important word. It’s also a good word in this discussion because of the different roles played by online friends versus real-life friends. Psychologist, Dr. David Divins from Princeton University explains it this way.
“There are fewer expectations from online friends. They are there when you want them and can be clicked away when you don’t. Online friends don’t care if you wipe your runny nose with the back of your hand, or even if you are wearing pants. Because most of the time, they can’t see you in any kind of detail. Real-life friends are, for lack of a better term, harder work.”
Aren’t they worth it? I mean, friends who I need pants for, make me, I don’t know, wear pants!
That is true. They are also the people in our lives who we best understand in a difficult or intimate conversation. How many people do you know who have taken your meaning wrong, or otherwise misunderstood something in a text-only exchange? Eye contact, the quickness of a smile, or a nuanced look. All of these are important in communication. They are less exact in an online-only conversation, and particularly so with an online-only friend.
A hundred years ago, friendships and love affairs were begun and continued within a few miles of one’s home. The advent of the car extended friendship and the heart’s reach for tens and hundreds of miles. Now the internet makes long-distance friendships and romance possible around the globe. But it is double-edged and can make lost that lovin’ feeling a reality. Not to mention shortening, and de-romancing, face-to-face kisses on a Saturday morning.