15 February 2011

People Are People

Have you ever noticed that your internet "friends" are just like your real friends.  I don't mean that they share sinilar traits, looks the same, like the same things or anything like that. I am talking more about how the dynamics of friendship are the same with "real-life" friends and internet "friends." (These groups do sometimes overlap, I would argue that a significant majority of the bloggers one reads are people they don't "know" in person.)

When you blog (for fun, for money or whatever) you tend to find a group of people.  This group develops into a kind of circle of friends where you all share your lives via blogging.  These are not friends in the traditional sense.  You know about their health, their kids, their work, their partners and even their sex-lives, but it is not the same kind of friendships you form with people you meet face to face.  Yet, even though you may not know their last-names, or even their "real names" and may have no idea what they look like in person, you share a common bond and life experiences...what other word is there for that than "friendship?"

Regardless of what you call those relationships, the individuals in this ring soon start to share the dynamic seen in most groups of friends.  Within your group of real-life friends you know who is hyper-sensitive, who is bossy, who is the "one-upper," who will make it all about them etc.  I am now finding this is very true in my blog life too.  Once I have read a post I can skim the names in the comments and have a pretty good idea of how everyone is going to react.  I can generally tell who will the Special Snowflake, who will win Butthurt Bonanza, who will agree, who will disagree, who will disagree but offer an important counter point, who will miss the point entirely due to some kind of mission to further their own cause and so on. 

This is not a bad thing.  Just as you love your friends for all their differences, even if those differences can be trying at times, I love all my blogging people.  We don't always have to agree, in fact we can vehemently disagree at times, and that is fine.  We can interpret things differently, and that is also fine.  We can all be bossy, selfish, delicate and/or down-right crazy and that just plain great.  The internet does provide a certain buffer that is missing in real-life. People who you might avoid like the plague in real-life soon become important characters in your online life because that  buffer allows a safe zone in which to explore your differences without the ulcer-inducing anxiety that a face-to-face discussion of differing points might create.  On the flip side, it also allows people to be way jerkier than they might be in real life, but honestly, so many people I meet are megalomaniacs with no social filter anyway, so here internet life might be representing real-life more accurately than we care to admit.

I am sure there is a very important sociological lesson to be learned here that no matter what the forum, people will fall into certain behavioral strata.  It may also be significant that even when given the relative anonymity of the internet,  people's distinct personae* shine through, even if from behind a carefully constructed veil of privacy.   The bottom line is that people are who they are, but blogging (and other forms of social media) have created groups of friends that would have never existed without this venue of interaction.  Friendship of any variety creates a nice comfort zone, I think internet friendship just lends itself well to vastly expanding that comfort zone.

*Did you know this is the plural for "persona"...I sure didn't.  Hooray, I learned something new today!


Ginger said...

I've found it so interesting how these groups form. I wish I could figure out how or why, but it's fascinating.

Take, for example, a blog I've been reading for about 6 months. I comment, a fair amount, but I am very clearly not one of the "group." Maybe I will be eventually, but for now, I'm just another commenter. Then there's another blog I started reading around the same time? Totally part of the group on that one. Why? (and not in a "why not mmeeeee? way, but really, why do groups form the way they do?). It's fascinating.

I have to say too, I love my internet friends--I love seeing the names on their comments, and, like you said, knowing at least the tenor of what they're going to say to me. It's comforting.

Now if only all of you all lived closer to me :-)