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Her, and Finding Love in the Virtual

Siri I Love You

We went to see American Hustle this weekend (side note: it was fantastic!) and there was a preview for Her, the new movie with Joaquin Phoenix where he falls in love with a Siri-like operating system.  Part of me feels as if I don’t really need to see the movie because I often transfer my love to inanimate objects, including computer games.  Part of me feels as if I probably really need to see the movie because I often transfer my love to inanimate objects, including computer games.

It started with Zork.  I got totally lost in those Infocom worlds.  During a time when it was difficult to make friends, I could go into Wishbringer or Enchanter or Moonmist and “talk” to people.  At least, with enough imagination, it felt as if I was there.

There have been gaps between loves, long periods of time when I grab my fulfillment elsewhere and forget technology exists.  And then I will hit a period of longing, and I transfer it to a place where it’s easy to fulfill it: a game.  Right now, it’s Hay Day.  I don’t have a baby, but I have chickens and cows and pigs who need me, and when I am with them at night, taking care of tasks on my farm, I feel as if there is forward momentum.  There’s something that needs me — even if it is only virtual — and I can fulfill its needs.

But here’s the thing: our blogging relationships — on some level — are very Her-like.  Because they take place online, they often feel virtual, even if our responses to each other are powered by actual humanness.  But except for the times when we step out of the computer screen, we interact with each other in this electronic space.  There’s no touch, no facial expressions, no intonation.  Our communication mirrors the flatness of Siri.  And yet I get so much out of it.  I have friends in the face-to-face world, but I still get so much out of reading your blogs and emailing and reading my comments and writing to you.  I get so much out of this communication; and yes, I’d call this feeling love.

You may not be able to give me an actual hug, but more times than I can count, you’ve given me a virtual hug.  And in some ways, it has felt very much the same.  Or it has intensified the actual hugs I’ve gotten from the face-to-face world when I couple them together.  Our interactions turn up the volume on everything that is happening right in front of me.  You make me a better wife, a better mother, a better writer, a better friend.

Sometimes it feels that the more sites that pop up to connect us, the more alienated we end up feeling as we watch other people’s celebrations on Facebook, see their perfect cakes on Pinterest, and hear about the fun they’re having on Twitter.  There is the fact that technology can divide us if we spent our face-to-face time with other people hooked to a device.

But the flip side is that computers have the potential to connect us to other people, in a way that goes beyond the connective qualities of social media sites.  That feeling love from a video game or an operating system may end up fulfilling something in yourself so that it brings you toward people, and perhaps, more than we can quantify, our virtual interactions can enhance our face-to-face interactions.

Thank you, all of you, for being you, human, and in the computer.


1 Lauren { 12.29.13 at 10:54 am }

You are so right. I feel so much love for and from my blog and message board friends. Some of them I have “known” going on 4 years now. And I don’t know how I would be coping without them.

2 Catwoman73 { 12.29.13 at 11:26 am }

I so wish I had started my blog sooner for this very reason! I am connected to people who actually understand my journey- something that is pretty rare in real life. My blogging relationships have made me feel more grateful for what I have, and helped me see the toxic relationships in my life for what they are. I’m not a huge fan of social media like Facebook, but I cant’ imagine my life without my blog.

And thank you for all you do, Mel! You help to bring us all together. 🙂

3 Bob { 12.29.13 at 12:00 pm }

Abort, Retry, Fail.

4 It Is What It Is { 12.29.13 at 12:28 pm }

I absolutely feel the same way about my virtual relationships, many garnered through a shared struggle to create/build our families. There are MANY women that I count among my actual, in real life relationships that started on-line and many more that are feel just as connected (you included) even though we’ve never met, or even spoken, in person.

It’s a bit like The Voice in that our words and shared experiences, our ‘blind’ support of one another simply because we ‘get’ it, create these profoundly deep relationships without the distraction of how we look/dress/what we drive/where we live/who we married etc. It is very freeing and, having met so many once on-line only friends in real life, I have every expectation that the women I’ve not met would be just as familiar and in step if we were to actually meet.

5 Jo { 12.29.13 at 8:50 pm }

Yes! I would be lost without my online relationships. Even now, as I transition towards the other side, I need them more than ever.

Oh, and thanks a lot or bringing Hay Day to my attention. Hay Day + bored teacher home on break = way too much time wasted gathering eggs. 😉

6 a { 12.29.13 at 10:38 pm }

I’m having fun (sometimes. When I’m not losing) playing Words With Friends with my husband on our respective phones.

I don’t know what I would do without my computer – I can’t even remember what life was like when you had to rely on someone to give you directions to their house. Although, having online friends has been challenging for my mindset. It’s much more difficult to determine whether connections are shared or merely one-sided online. It’s a fascinating frontier…

7 Brid { 12.29.13 at 11:14 pm }

It’s a paradigm that cannot be imagined if you’re on the other side. Of course, my family and friends ‘know’ what we’ve gone through. But here I am with a sister who is nearly seven months pregnant (LIVING WITH ME) and a best friend who has just told me at our Christmas party that she’s two months along. She told me crying because she’s not entirely thrilled. If you’ve not been there, you will really never get it… not totally. The very minimal online connections make me feel like I’m not a completely crazy person. Sometimes in a conversation, I’ll find myself saying something like, “I know a girl who…” but really I don’t know that girl at all. In a way, this is all a little bit like infertility because it’s all false starts or fantasy. Your friendship is like the baby I’ve imagined because she’s there, but she not really there at all.

8 Tiara { 12.31.13 at 7:48 am }

And thank you!! I know I am a better person for reading blogs & making online connections. I am exposed to perspectives & experiences I otherwise wouldn’t encounter.

9 Battynurse { 01.01.14 at 1:43 am }

Thank you! Not sure how I would have made it through IF and into living child free if I hadn’t stumbled across your blog all those years ago.

10 Aerotropolitan Comitissa { 01.02.14 at 6:51 am }

Thank you, Mel.

11 Amber { 01.20.14 at 9:45 pm }

I absolutely love all my blogging friends! I appreciate the comments and virtual hugs almost as much as I do in “real” life! Sad? I don’t think so. I think you are right in that this community makes us a better friend, wife, etc.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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