meeting a virtual friend

Over the years. I’ve met quite a few different people by way of the internet; people with whom I’ve found a wide range of interests, and corresponded with in more than one language. In most of the situations, I learned to recognize an icon, or a name that meant very little to me. In real life, I believe I have a talent to understand people when face to face with them; when watching their faces as they speak, or even watching them without much speaking or activity. But this is not possible when receiving comments on the blog, or exchanging mails about computer programming, science, language or literature. Even when people tell a little about themselves, they mention what they think is important at a particular moment, or react to something you’ve said. And it is much harder to get to know them, than it is when meeting with a person in real life. And this is without considering the possibility of someone deliberately misrepresenting who he or she really is.

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my friend Bill

There are many people out there who are apprehensive about exposing themselves to hundreds of people that they don’t know, and this too interferes with getting to really know another person in cyberspace. People’s icon can be a quick sketch, or the photo of a pet… or a picture taken from nature. Or a picture taken 20 o4 30 years ago when they really looked good, according to their own opinion.

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a cat soaking up sunshine opposite the temple mount

Yet there is something about a person that seems to come through even dry comments regarding abstract subjects. Or messages read between the lines. Sometimes, discovering that another person has a set of opinions, that really appeals to you, or enjoying the humor expressed between the lines, or a well put smiley from time to time, is enough to develop feelings and a sense of relationship with someone you have never met. A few lines that flew through the air in a virtual conversation are enough to give you the feeling that you ‘know’ another person, or to provoke real feelings regarding a virtual friend. It is amazing. I have had acquaintances that I started edging away from after a single comment, and others who I barely knew, but started considering a ‘friend’ after something was shared. But through the time, I’ve always had reservations, after the first few meeting with online friends. Because, from my first experiences of getting to know people I had met on the net, I realized that I had missed more information than I had gained in that sort of communication.

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Mrs. Bill in Jerusalem

And still, because there is a certain intimacy possible between people, when the communication is direct, from mind to mind by way of words, without all the distractions of personal presence, without the sound of the voice, the smells, the style of clothing, differences in height, differences in taste or preferences, I have often had the desire to get to really know a friend I’ve met in cyberspace. There have been cases, where I met with a correspondent, and instantly felt as if I’d known him all my life. And there have been other cases, where after a short while, all I wanted to do was to disengage in the most civil and respectable way possible. Where I suddenly realized that something about the other person was unacceptable for me. I will never forget the meeting with a man I had been corresponding with for years, an intelligent and creative person… but on meeting with him, became extremely aware of the fact that he had absolutely no sense of humor.

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a serious photographer

I think that is why, when I was finally about to meet my friend Bill, I mentioned to him that I was a smoker. Here he was coming from the other side of the world, and we had shared ideas and opinions about a number of subjects… but I suddenly remembered how unpopular smoking is in a lot of places, and he might not want to be in proximity to a smoker. As careful as you try to be, there are always surprises; things you didn’t think about at all. He is younger than me. Comes from a completely different culture. Has different interests in life; different hobbies, and a different life style. But I really like his photography, and I had the impression that he enjoyed my writing style. We’ve known each other for some time now. A number of years, in fact. We got to know one another on a platform that we’ve both left since then… and followed each other to other places on the internet.

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enjoying Israeli food for the first time

Yesterday, we finally met in Jerusalem. I was quite optimistic, but didn’t know how it would go. He had come to visit my beloved city for the first time in his life. And he had Mrs. Bill with him. I don’t mention her name on purpose. Because he has never mentioned her name on his blog, for as long as I’ve known him. I think he’s reluctant to expose her to the unknown public.

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real friends whom I met in cyberspace

It was a very interesting and moving experience. We felt truly friends from the moment we met. He was a little different from what I’d imagined. But despite all the differences, I found that I had more in common with him than I could have imagined. We shared similar tastes and similar attitudes. And it was a great pleasure sharing with him a few of my favorite places in this, my home town. Mrs. Bill was a real sweetheart, and it was a great pleasure getting to know her. And though she mentioned she was a bit shy, I hadn’t even noticed! All three of us had cameras ready, and we shot the same scenery in different ways, and took pictures of each other. Bill took a picture I really liked, of myself talking to his wife in a restaurant where we had lunch, and I would like to include that picture in this post, but I still haven’t gotten it from him, though I know I will eventually get the shot.

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10 responses to “meeting a virtual friend

  1. Thats a very positive story of virtual friendship, I love the article. Specially the part where you have mentioned “But despite all the differences, I found that I had more in common with him than I could have imagined.” Why people in cyberspace are spending their precious time? All of us are looking for people with similar tastes and interest. May be, they don’t have good sense of humor; they are from another world; they are unaware of our customs and cultures and they don’t like the things that we like. Who cares about the little things in friendship? May be people are getting detached from the society; may be we are getting uncivilized in a virtual world of cyberspace fantasy. Where people are getting real interest of smart living? Freedom is there! People give value to people who have in similar taste of science, arts and literature. I do appreciate the modern “human picture” that you have drawn.

    • Thank you very much Vikram. I do think that sometimes the ‘little things’ are just as important as the seemingly big things that we appreciate in a friendship. I think sometimes we’re not aware of what really matters to us… but the company of one person brings us inspiration and a sense of companionship… and with another we don’t feel that. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Pingback: On “meeting a virtual friend” by ShimonZ « Vikram Roy's Blog

  3. I too have a virtual friend who I met through my sister. His name is also Bill and even though I’ve never learned his last name, I’ve conversed with him almost weekly via the internet and do consider him a friend. God does moves in strange ways.

    • Yes, Forsythkid, we can never be sure what life is going to offer us. And the internet has opened us up to a lot of new horizons. I have met quite a few people as a result of blogging, and have met only a small number of them in real life. But most of those meetings have been very good. I’ve also learned to appreciate the nature of a relationship which is based only on an exchange of thoughts by way of email and blog comments. Thank you for your comment.

  4. The best and closest friends that I have in my life are people that I met over the internet, including my husband. I have heard all of the horror stories about people not being who they claim to be, and worse, but I have had extremely positive experiences with those I have met online.

    I loved reading about your meeting with Bill and his wife. It reminds me of the first time that my friend Gerry and his wife traveled all the way from Ireland to Tennessee to meet me and my family. It was such an amazing experience on so many levels for me. I have lived a very sheltered life, never traveled or been exposed to much in the way of cultural diversity so meeting this lovely couple from a completely different culture was a brilliant adventure for me. Gerry was the first online friend that I made from another country, that was almost ten years ago and we remain friends. I now have many friends from all of the globe. If not for the internet I never would have met these people who have so enriched my life and changed me in ways that even I probably do not realize.

    • I’m very glad to hear of your positive experiences… and how wonderful that you found a mate on the internet. I too have had mostly positive experiences/ But I’ve had a few negative ones as well, though never a ‘horror story’. There are things that don’t come across in a correspondence between people, but in the case of Bill, all those things were more positive than I could imagine, so it was a very pleasant surprise.

  5. I think most horror stories are a result of people rushing things. I still think it is wise to be cautious, but that does not just apply to the internet. It is foolish to put yourself in potentially dangerous situations with someone you don’t really know whether you met them online two days ago or in person two days ago.

    I think the internet allows us to connect on a more intimate level in some ways. People tend to be less self conscious and more forthcoming online.
    I am not sure why that is true. I know for shy people or self conscious people this medium gives them a voice. Studies have shown that students who do not participate in class discussions in person will do so online. Maybe it gives them a sense of security because they know if some thing makes them uncomfortable they can disconnect from it easily in this medium where that may not be true in person.

    I am really happy that your experience with Bill was a positive one. =)

    • I agree with you on all points. It is just that usually, I am able to understand people very quickly in a person to person meeting. And it took me a while to realize that I did not have this talent when meeting people on the internet. Thank you for sharing my joy at meeting new friends.

  6. Enjoyed your blog about your virtual friend. You’re fortunate that you did have a chance to meet. Thank you for your comment on my blog “Femmes of the Fiftes”. You don’t seem to have difficulty making friends. Keep up the good work. I, also share a fondness for some of the people I met on the internet

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