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March 8th, 2007 · 11 Comments · Current Affairs, Growing & Learning

Friends 10+ years ago, when I was a sysop (like a host with some "hall monitoring type" powers) in a CompuServe forum, there was always a discussion about if "on-line friendships" could possibly be as rich and long-lasting as friendships formed off-line. 

I’m here to tell you the answer is yes.

So its interesting to me that we can fast forward to today and jump into the same conversation.  DA raised the issue after spending the weekend with some old high school chums.  Then, Gavin Heaton added his voice to the debate over at Marketing Profs Daily Fix.

Here’s my take.  Relationships grow out of shared emotions, experiences and reaching out to one another.  All of that is borne from investing time in one another.   Listening to each other’s thoughts, responding to them, cheering on the days things go well and sending a supportive cyber hug when one of your favorite bloggers is having a tough time — all of that breeds intimacy.  Connection.   Caring.  I’ve had conversations with bloggers who just welcomed their first baby into the world.  I’ve also had conversations with bloggers who are overcoming alcoholism and other personal struggles.  You can’t tell me that those connections are any less real because they’re made on-line.

One of the elements of blogging that I think is most significant (which I’ll write about in my 5 reasons why I blog post which is due any day) is the intimacy that can be achieved.  I think that the medium is just symantics.

And it starts, just like it does in offline life, with a simple gesture.  The other day I got an e-mail from Steve Manousos.  We’ve never met.  He’s never commented on my blog.  A total stranger.  Until the e-mail.

I read your blog every now and then, and when I do, I wonder why your photo is so dark. Here, I’ve lightened it up for you.

And with that, he attached a new jpg (see the lighter side of me to your right)  What a cool and unexpected thing to do.

So, of course, I wrote him to say thanks and learned that he’s the owner of ImageSnap, an online store where you can personalize everything from basketball hoops to mousepads.  I also learned that he used to be on the national desk at the LA Times and founded the company that made Painter, Dabbler and Poser.

Will we be lifelong friends?  I don’t know.  But the beginning of a connection has been made.  And that’s how it starts.  But first, I need to get him to read the blog more regularly!

So what’s your take?  Are online friendships different?  Does it matter if you ever meet in person?   Tell me about a friend you’ve made via your online life.  Or tell me you disagree.

But tell me something…after all friends don’t ignore each other!

 

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11 Comments so far ↓

  • Cam Beck

    Drew – I’ve met several friends online – people whose opinions I value, and some of those relationships have carried over into the physical realm.

    Of course, Dallas bloggers such as the Great Haw, Paul McEnany, as well as Idea Grove PR guru Scott Baradell, Paul Herring and I have met on several occasions, and we all meet periodically on the DMZ (Blog Talk Radio) with Brian Clark of Copyblogger to discuss marketing (and the Theory of Evolution, if the mood strikes us).

    The Hawster is driving some cool initiatives that allow area marketers to meet up and discuss trends and ideas – particularly as they relate to new media.

    Whether or not we ever get to meet in person (and I hope we do), I’m very blessed to be able to be acquainted with and inspired by great idea leaders like yourself over this medium.

  • David Armano

    Yes, I think it’s possible, and even more impactful when you connect with digital friends in person or at least over the phone.

    Still there is something about the friends we make early in life. Maybe it comes down to how unique an experience growing up really is.

  • Elizabeth Saunders

    Yes–I think that digital communication can lead to extremely strong connections. Even with friends and family that I do meet with face to face, digital and phone communication is what keeps us in touch. For instance, my family sees each other about every couple of months, but we have a weekly hour-long conference call to hear the daily happenings.

    I have a friend and business partner in Des Moines that I see maybe once a month but call or e-mail at least once a day.

    I think the only important point is that digital communication can not completely replace the value of meeting people face-2-face. And it can be unwise to base certain levels of intimacy, i.e. wanting to get married, completely on digital communication.

    A computer prince charming could be an uncurable toad in person!

    Looking forward to meeting with you in person on Monday!

    Elizabeth

  • Copywriting Maven

    Drew, this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

    Like you, I’ve been online in one form or another since 1986 (yes, that’s not a typo. I was also an Section Leader for CIS, too, for a few years.)

    In the 20+ years since, I’ve chatted online, created websites, and now blogs, I’ve touched and been touched by hundreds of people. For example:

    ** I met my husband online

    ** I coordinated my 6-week, Las Vegas divorce with the help of online friends, right down to the car rental :=)

    ** When hubby and I decided to adopt a baby from Korea, I turned that journey into a website. Today, I still get photos of adorable little babies from proud new parents, all with a thanks.

    ** I stay in touch with online friends I’ve never met in person, even after almost 20 years. I remember their screen names better sometimes then I remember their actual names! (Mine is Direct Action and folks still call me “DA.”)

    ** And I connect with new friends and colleagues, too!

    It’s nice to know you and other folks live so nicely “in my head.”

  • Drew McLellan

    Cam,

    One of the things I love about taking an on-line friendship to actually meeting face-to-face is that because of the depth of sharing — it’s like you’ve known each other for years!

    Have you found that to be true?

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    David,

    You will get no argument from me there. One of my lifelong closest friends is a woman I met when we were both in the 5th grade.

    The history and consistent presence in each other’s lives is really something that cannot be rivaled.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Elizabeth,

    Ahh, but I could be a toad! :)

    Looking forward to meeting up with you as well and learning more about your business.

    Drew

  • Drew McLellan

    Roberta,

    We’ll have to compare CIS stories some day.

    Like you, the relationships created there and elsewhere online have greatly enriched my life.

    Whether I have ever looked them in the eye or not. I have certainly looked them in the heart.

    Drew

  • Gavin Heaton

    Great discussion, Drew. Living here in Australia means that I have “Blog Buddies” such as yourself all over the world. Will we meet? Hopefully. But until that time, email and blogging/commenting is one of the ways that we can maintain and deepen those friendships.

  • Drew McLellan

    Gavin,

    I vote for not if but when!

    Online connections shrink the world. I love that I can see parts of your presentation on your blog, or get a twitter message about the traffic jam you’re in, or e-mail back and forth. I think of the internet as our local pub…and we each pull up a stool and sit a spell — telling stories, listening and getting to know one another better.

    And as you say — it will suffice until we find a way to get you to the States!

    Drew

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