Let me introduce you to my BFF…

There are all sorts of ways that the new digital paradigm is changing how we relate to each other. If you read Advice Columns, there are lots of questions about how to deal with your wife’s ex-husband on Facebook, or what to do if your boss sends you an invite to be friends. It’s all in flux, and many of the old rules of relationships need to be rewritten to deal with new venues.

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs (which I highly recommend, by the way). I had the moment of “Squee!! I know the author of that book, Ursula Vernon!” And in some ways I do. I can tell you that her cat, Ben, has had some health scares lately. I know that she has an enormous chicken statue in her garden. I know all about her divorce, how much weight she lost through the stress of it, the amount of time she spent recovering, and her apparently pretty awesome new boyfriend. I know what she’s planted in her garden, and her favorite boots to wear to a Con. So I definitely know her. The thing is, she very likely does not know me, at all. I could walk up to her and tell her all my online identities, and she’d likely get a confused but polite expression. This happens to her a lot. She’s a very popular blogger/author/painter, and there are thousands of us who read her musings. Of course she doesn’t know us all back.

Then there’s my other BFF (Best Friend Forever), Amy Storch. Her sons are the same age as my sons! She’s gone through lots of the same things, but plenty of unique challenges too. Dude, Levar Burton once replied in Tweets to her post about the traumatic experiences she suffered with Reading Rainbow! She’s the friend you go to for advice about moisturizer choices, or who you want to get a pedicure with. We totally hang out all the time! Or, well, we would. Except once again, she may not even know who I am, although she did answer one of my questions in her advice column once.

Now, I might be feeling a little “oh woe is me no one knows who I am!” but this is an experience I’m encountering from both ends. I’m a small-time blogger (even smaller since I stopped being able to update daily). I average fewer than 75 hits a day (although much better when Boston.com puts me on the front page!) I suspect that 90% of my regular readers are people I know in real life. The rest of them are looking for radish recipes or night life advice for the Indian city of Thane. (Sorry googlers!) But I have definitely encountered people who know me quite well from my writings, who don’t write themselves. While I have some vague ideas about who they are, they know everything about me. That’s what it means, when you put yourself up here on the internet, and your friends, family, enemies, acquaintances and complete strangers can all see your life, laid out plainly.

In a real conversation there’s a back and forth. You learn some things, you share some things. In this new paradigm of online conversations, it ain’t necessarily so. Some people are only consumers of other’s writings…. they listen but they never share. My husband is one of these. Others only talk and never read. Most people do a balance of both. But all throughout the world, not only are people wrestling with what to do about the knowledge they obtained due to a drunk post by their former coworker, but they are dealing with these asymmetrical relationships, when the people they know best are not ones who even know they exist.

What about your online life? Are you a balanced creator/consumer of content? Do I know you? You know me, or you can know me pretty well with a cruise through my archives. Do you like the anonymity of reading? Do you wish it was more reciprocal? Comment, and turn my monologue into a dialog!

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

7 thoughts on “Let me introduce you to my BFF…”

  1. Last night we went to church at the 1st PCSL. Presbyterian church of Second Life. Now that was a weird activity. I “saw” the other worshipers as they want to be, not as they are. I am pretty sure the Roule does not have fairy wings!

    But Pen Pals are nothing new. We used to have them. Isn’t this just electronic pen pals?


    1. No, not really. If your pen pal doesn’t write back, then there is no conversation. In this medium, you keep sending letters out without knowing if anyone is getting them. And you keep getting letters, without the person who wrote them even knowing you get them!


  2. I strive for as low a public digital footprint as possible, and I only follow the musings of a few people, all of whom I know personally and care for.


  3. That’s why I still stick w/ LJ over a “real” blog – LJ, to me, is more like sitting around having a conversation in my living room, while a blog-blog is like standing on the streetcorner shouting out your views. Yeah, people hear you, but not many stop and respond.


  4. This is a great post. I love to write and participate in online dialogs with people, but writing has always taken a lot of time and energy for me–far more than is probably evident by the number of characters that end up appearing on the screen. And, of course, once children enter the picture time becomes a precious commodity. Because of this I end up lurking far more than posting, though if I could wave a magic wand and make writing “easy”, there would be more of an equilibrium.

    Twitter (and Facebook, before Facebook went crazy) helps a bit with this, since it’s easy to dash off a few lines to share. Though I’ll be the first to admit 140 characters is rarely enough, it’s far better than nothing. I’m tw33tg33k by the way, if you do the twitter thing.


    1. I think my husband is the same way. He proofreads, re-reads and edits absolutely everything that someone might read. This makes his quality higher but his quantity lower.

      And boy, do I hear you about the kids!

      We have a funny overlap, you and I, with RL and IL (internet life). But that’s part of what makes all this so fun!


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