When the Web Gets Personal ... In a Good Way

I'd first like to say I appreciate your patience with my non-blogging this week. I celebrated my 34th birthday and decided my gift to myself would be a short blog hiatus. I took the extra time to keep hammering away on a re-write of a current project and to basically enjoy life. 

Here's how I know you guys and gals are great: I get comments telling me how fabulous the comments are! Half the time they don't even mention my post. : ) 

Which is cool with me, because I already know how groovy y'all are. I feel like such a leech at times because I seriously get so much more from your thoughts than my own. 

Speaking of comments, there were so many awesome ones on my last post I'm still trying to get back around to everyone to say thanks.  So thank you. THANK you. THANK YOU. And I'll be visiting your blogs soon ...


Actually, the point of this post is to say another thank you. This thanks goes to Alex Cavanaugh for once again proving that this Internet thing can be real. 

The people we interact with Online all too often seem like phantoms. They fade in and out with comments and Tweets. It feels as though we can't touch them in any meaningful way. We realize they can't touch our 'REAL' lives either, but we're aware of them all the same. 

I think the phantom mentality helps keep things in a healthy psychological place. After all, what do we really know about these people? Sure, we've been talking at each other--in some cases--for years. We've gleaned enough information from things they've shared on Facebook or blogs to know a little about what their offline lives are like. 

We grow close in a casually acquainted sort of way.

But here's the reality: If that blog follower we've known for years suddenly disappeared tomorrow, never to comment again, what could we do about it? In most cases, absolutely nothing. Most of us haven't met each other in real life. We wouldn't know who to call, or what to say even if we could find them. 

It's a two-way street. If someone quits following our blog, or says something mean about us in a review, it stings a little. Especially if it's someone you've interacted with for a while. We promote each other. We comment. But just like all relationships, things can sour. Unlike other relationships, the Web-Life rarely gives an explanation or opportunity for rebuttal.

People are here one instant, gone the next. 



My favorite 'ghost' song...

As such, it's probably better to think of the people we interact with Online as ghosts. They can be friendly. They can be scary. But ultimately they can't really hurt or help us. They're just there. We're all just there.

To be honest, there are times when I think that sucks. Even if it is true and for the best. 

I'm a people kind of guy. I'm the person who talks to strangers at the store. I ask people I don't know about their kids, how their day has gone, etc. I smile with them, try to make them laugh if I can tell they're having a crap day. Just who I am. 

Sometimes this Internet thing is just a little too impersonal for my taste. I feel like I'm building paper relationships that are apt to blow away with the first stiff breeze. And for the most part that's probably accurate. 

As much as I want you to know I'm a nice guy, I mean what I say, and I truly want the best for you and your endeavors, I understand if it doesn't hold much weight. It simply can't. The minute you allow yourself to believe that, then you also have to be willing to believe me--on some small level--if I suddenly say you suck.

That's just more of a risk than most of us are willing to take with complete strangers. And rightfully so.

Then you meet people like Alex. They go so far above and beyond the normal Web pleasantries and protocol that it makes you rethink the concept of friendship. 

You realize you can truly grow to respect and enjoy someone you've never even talked to. You realize you can have an impact on people, because they have an impact on you. They make you see that you can sometimes trust strangers, so it makes you want to keep trying to be real in return.

Sometimes it does work.

I'm pretty sure most of you follow Alex and know all about the swell guy he is, so I won't bother with much of things we already know. I'll just say that I don't think there's a more real person I've met, Online or off. 

He does stuff that no one else takes the time to do, and he does it without asking for anything. In a system (blogging, social media, etc.) built on the "I'll scratch your back..." philosophy I can't tell you how refreshing that is. 

So cheers, Alex. Thanks for helping me keep my heart in this Web stuff, even when it seems like it doesn't have a place. 

~EJW~

19 comments:

  1. Thank you, EJ. That really means a lot to me.
    I've had blogger friends vanish and outside of leaving a comment or sending an email, there's not much else to do but wonder.
    Like you, I try to ensure those around me receive a good word from me, if it's as simple as telling the cashier at the grocery story to have a blessed day. I'd rather brighten someone's day then bring a cloud of doom. And I try to carry that attitude to the virtual world as well. After two and a half years of blogging, I've found that the greatest joy is encouraging others and sharing their accomplishments and joy with others. That's what matters most to me now.
    And hope that has restored your faith just a little in online friends!

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  2. We love you, too, EJ!

    You get comments about the comments? Seriously?

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  3. Most of my friends are online, lol. Maybe it's because they haven't faded for me yet, but when I think about my friends I get to interact with physically, the same goes for them. They fade when life gets crazy or they move or whatever the case. My family remains unchanged, which I am grateful for, but when I think about my online friends, they can move wherever and they'll still be around, so to speak. Not saying one is better than the other by no means, but they are all my friends with me for the period of time that I need them in my life. Whether that's a short while or forever. :)

    Alex is definitely one of those people who builds relationships. I'm lucky to count him as one of my friends.

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  4. Oh, this is such an awesome post! Yes, I know Alex, which is how I found YOU! He really is a gem, and a genuine nice guy. And you sound like a heck of a nice guy, too. Nice to "meet" you here in cyber space. I promise I won't go away. Even if you want me to :)

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  5. First of all Happy belated birthday, EJ!

    Alex sounds like a real person. You don't get that often out here. I've had someone approach me and I think "okay, this person is nice." and then nothing.

    To the contrary of this, I've met a bunch of good people out here who have stopped by my blog--as lame as it sometimes is--and leave their comments. That feels good. After my first two years of nothing, except for Heather McCorkle leaving her comment--and still does--I thought maybe this is how it is out here.

    But no. I've met a bunch of people (virtually), and they would welcome me into their home, as would I. I don't feel alone at all. Before Internet writers could not interact like this at all! Think about that for a moment.

    And EJ, you are a sweet guy, we all worry about you when we don't see you for a while. We worry about each other, too. Esp. the ones we actually have gotten to know, doing more than just the minimal things. I might get emails from friends, and email them or catch them on FB in chat. It might seem crazy, no fact-to-face contact. But it's there. I don't mind it. Not at all.

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  6. Lately, it seems like my only friendships are online, with people whom I've never met in person so far. I'm actually ok with that because I spend a lot of time online and it's been difficult trying to nurture relationships with many my offline friends that I already know.

    You're totally right about the online friendships being like ghosts, sometimes it's nice, other times, it's scary and one minute someone can be there, and then disappear the next minute. We just have to do the best that we can with what we have and take things as they come.

    ~Nicole
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    *Rockin' the A to Z Challenge!*
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

    P.S.

    Happy Birthday, EJ!

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  7. Alex is one of a kind amazing.

    I know that forming close friendships online is possible, but it does take effort. I actually met my husband on a messageboard and I have made friends in my online gaming community that have been been there to offer support and help in real life when I needed it. It can be more difficult through the blogging structure though unless you take it to emails and such as well.

    Personally, I haven't made it to the point where I've made close friendships through blogging and I'm a bit jealous of those who have. Though I've never been a people person and making friends has never come easily to me. Perhaps with time!

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  8. I'm visiting from Alex's blog, and I couldn't agree more about all the wonderful things you said about him!

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  9. Happy bday, EJ! Glad you took a blog-break and caught up on your "other" writing. And wow on the Alex love--he deserves every iota of it, although I don't know him very well (yet), but I've heard and seen great stuff about and from him. You taking the time to sing his praises does nothing but confirm his standing in my head.

    People do vanish in cyberspace, and you're right--"ghosts" is what we are to each other, until proven different. I've "met" people online that embrace that incarnation, as if online bonds were both stronger and weaker than "in-person" ones: stronger because they'll survive prolonged hiatuses (hiati?), and weaker because they don't require the same investment of time and energy. I, for one, don't agree. Connections between people, in person or otherwise, are still connections, and still require putting oneself out there. Scary, yes, but isn't it always?

    It's been a pleasure to meet you, EJ, and I love finding comments from you on my blog. I hope you don't get swallowed by cyberspace, but if you do, and if you find your way back, you'll always be welcome :)

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  10. Nice to meet you, EJ. I'm also over from Alex's blog, and I agree with everything you say that he proves that online friendships are possible. I'm overwhelmed at the number of blogs he follows, and yet he is often the first person to comment on a post of mine. I don't know how he does it... but I think the positive aspects of the internet should be embraced as us writers are able to feel supported by others in a similar boat! Before I blogged I didn't have anyone to talk to about stuff. I've known people disappear but this was announced beforehand and they stated their reasons. The good outweighs the bad, IMO!

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  11. Ohhhhh... I LOVE this, EJ... What a fab post....

    It's amazing to me that even from online, I can get an honest sense of who someone is... Alex is SO one of these people! There's something about him that is so genuine that comes across so clearly through the screen. You're one of these people too, EJ. You can tell that you're genuine---that it isn't just some facade to gain comments/followers or whatever. A good person through n through, you are ;) I think it's great that we can support & uplift each other--because writing can be very lonely. And it's sooo nice to have that support. Love it. :)

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  12. Happy 34th! It's peeps like Alex who do make it all feel real... and I think for the most part, this whole social media blogging thing is about figuring out who those real peeps are and not worrying so much about the rest. Alex is a prime example of true generosity. ANd we know you're a good guy too! One I always enjoy seeing comments from. :)

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  13. Ooh, guess I haven't been here in a while - hadn't seen the redesign. Pretty cool. I think there are different kinds of relationships on the web. Some are as you described. Some are like Alex. And then all sort of stuff in between. If I really hit it off with someone, I count them as a true friend, and it stops being a quid pro quo kind of thing. And I have a few of those. And then there are people I'm not quite as close to whose blogs I stop by as often as I have time for, and it never seems like enough. And then there are those who never stop by my blog and we never get a chance to see if we could be friends, and I run out of time to scratch their backs. I think most of us are just doing the best we can with what we've got. Happy Birthday!

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  15. A belated Happy Birthday to you, EJ!! I hope you had a great celebration for your special day.

    Alex rocks and I totally agree about online friends. It's amazing the bonds you can form with someone you've never actually "met."

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  16. Yes, belated birthday wishes! I love that you took a break!
    Blogging is great, but we do need time away, from ghosts. They haunt our memories and dance throughout our day. Sometimes I will find something I think I should share with one of my blogger friends, I mean ghosts... lol I don't dare talk about any of you anymore with my family. They think you are really ghosts... They look at me in their freaked out smiles, "oh, that's nice"....
    I do agree with you, there is a parallel universe for these relationships. Some do cross over into more aspects of our lives than others. Whatever it is ghosts, twilight friends, bloggers I am so glad to be part of this journey! I hope most of my followers are the Casper variety! Nice to meet you~
    Great post!

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  17. Happy Birthday E.J. Hope it was wonderful!

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  18. A belated Happy Birthday to you, EJ!

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