Nat just turned seven. This is remarkable in and of itself, but what’s more so is that when I told Twitter, a half dozen people piped up with their “wows” and we all reminisced about, not so much how old our kids were all getting, but how long we have now known each other.
Everyone (in this Twitter chat) was someone I met via blogging, either before Nat was born or shortly after. Everyone was also someone I happen to have also met somewhere in three dimensions at conferences or on business trips. But even though these face-to-face meetings are great, and add something to the sense of “knowing” someone, they are hardly one percent of the substance of the friendships I’ve had for roughly seven years, with people I know as well or better than many I only know “in person” because we have shared some of the most important things about ourselves with each other, in more depth than is usually possible in the busy-ness of actual (versus virtual) reality.
I cherish my friends made in the old world of school and college and grad school and church and work and coffee shops. But in the new world of virtual life, I have been able to meet soul mates I never would have run into if I was limited by three dimensional space and a travel budget all but annihilated by the expense of raising kids in the city. In fact, I have become friends with people with whom I might have never become friends even if we saw each other on a regular basis because of differences in ability that the Internet more or less levels, allowing us to communicate more easily than we might in person.
I’m glad I have a foot in the old world of time and space limited by…well, time and space. It gives me a sense of the real value of those limits and the desire to artificially preserve them in some cases, for my better mental health. But it also gives me a real appreciation for the truly monumental shift of what it means to be human, now that, for much of the developed world, those time and space limits have been reduced to almost nothing by virtual reality and its relatively easy access. As limited as access still is (and I am personally, closely related to people with absolutely no access to it, so I am aware that it is by no mean universal), it is still perhaps a good deal more accessible than, for example, steamship travel was to most people when it became available.
I am not one to sing the unqualified praises of anything, let alone the Internet. But I do get annoyed sometimes, when I hear the Luddites grumping about the bad new days. There’s good, there’s bad, there’s a lot of “meh” in between, but here we are. And I have the new world to thank for some really wonderful people who have given me all kinds of support for my odd family over the years, including the simplest but perhaps most critical kind of support of just being odd themselves and letting me know we’re not alone.
Happy Friendship Anniversary, everyone–whether it’s exactly to the date or not. It’s been an unqualified blessing to know you.