Over the past ten years, about 90% of my relationships with people have somehow been maintained or even resulted from a online interaction in one form or other. And I guess if there’s any sort of problem with that fact, its that over the past five or so years, as I’ve become more and more deeply involved in online communities and blogs, the vast majority of people I’ve ended up feeling really connected to for whatever reason live outside of my physical geography. Partly this is related to the fast pace, I have my agenda reality of modern life — each of us scurrying about in our own small lives, getting things done that need to get done, keeping our heads above water — but I know that isn’t a complete explanation.
I’ve thought a lot about self-representation and online identity, and while I believe its possible to construct some sort of fake identity and enact that online, I also think its an impossible thing to maintain convincingly for very long without being unmasked. Which is a roundabout way of saying that, for the most part, I think people who deeply engage in the online world are as much themselves online as they are offline, maybe even more real online then offline. Words — exchanged verbally or in written form — are the currency of the self, and I believe that my words here and elsewhere do, in fact, show who I am (whatever that means), and I think the same can be said of everyone else who writes with any consistency online. And so I believe that the interactions and friendships forged online are as real as anything else and as meaningful as any other human interaction, and shouldn’t be demoted to some sort of ill-defined second-tier of reality that doesn’t really matter as much somehow.
Having said all of that, would I prefer that some of the people I’ve grown to know and love online lived in my city? Of course, though I suspect that 75% of my interaction with them would still take place online, because most of the people I know and love online have, like me, devoted large parts of their lives and selves to the online world, for a variety of reasons. And yeah, maybe that’s not the norm or (gag) normal, but then I’m certainly not now, and have never been, a guy looking for the conventional and commonplace in life or in friendships.
So, to sum up: I [heart] the internet. Durr.