The Friends We Cannot See
In the Magician King, there is a character who finally meets the people she has been conversing with online. Actually conversing is too small a word. The people who mentally saved her as she was spiraling down the drain. Anyway, she encounters them, face-to-face, and has to adjust because they don’t match the image she has had her brain of these faceless people on the other side of the screen.
It’s not just a visual thing because I think we all suspect that people are going to look different from how we imagined them in our brain when we finally see what they actually look like. But is the person as strong or as kind or as outgoing as we imagined them to be?
This computer screen thing is strange.
I’ve had a lot of bloggers step out from behind the screen so we can meet face-to-face. A long time ago, it seemed like more people blogged anonymously, both under an assumed name and without images on their blog. The person you met up with at a conference or at a coffeehouse almost never looked like the person you had in your brain.
Nowadays, it seems like fewer people blog anonymously. Even if they don’t use their full name, they at least use their first name and/or provide a picture or two.
Why has this changed? Are we more comfortable with the medium, unafraid to admit that we’re writing the words? Or is it a matter of wanting to be known; owning our writing proudly and wanting credit for our words?
I love meeting people through my blog or their blog. It’s like any friendship. A connection isn’t very satisfying when it exists solely on the screen. It’s a bit better when you can talk in real time. And it’s (usually) at its best when you can spend time face-to-face. This isn’t always possible, but when it is, I love getting to sit down across from another person.
When they are a blogger, too, it feels like you’re getting an annotated blog. Like those Norton Editions that had the notes down the margins giving you interesting facts and elaborations on the text. Because blogs are nice — blogs are wonderful — but sometimes you want more than what exists on the screen.
Justine and I got together this past weekend. We’ve done it before, either near her home or mine, but this time, we decided to point our cars at each other and drive until we met in the middle. We chose a small town with the 27th best tea house in the state. How did we know it was #27? Because there is someone out there ranking these things.
(Except that the list changed! It was 27th last week, but I just checked and it’s now listed as #25. Go go little tea house!)
It was cold, so we mostly either sat inside establishments or wandered around small stores, and we finally ended up in a Thai restaurant for dinner. We were seated next to a couple who were clearly on a date. The man’s voice carried through the whole restaurant, and I’m not going to mince words: he was entertaining the girl with a running monologue about his love of guns and shooting things, including himself.
“Should we leave?” Justine whispered.
“I don’t know,” I murmured. “It doesn’t sound like he has a gun with him.”
So we stayed and listened to their horrifying conversation for another 20 minutes until they left their table. In my head I was thinking, if I had never started a blog, I would have never met Justine, and we wouldn’t have driven at each other today, and we would have missed this man’s date.
But I did start a blog so I did meet Justine so we did drive at each other and we did get to catch a conversation that I immediately recounted for Josh upon returning home and have since told many other people the whole 20 minute monologue. It’s such a great story, and I would have missed it entirely if I hadn’t put my own story into the universe.