Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Invisible Wall

Perfect strangers are fantastic councilors. They don't have friends, vendettas, biases, or predispositions. They simply see problems from a third-person perspective, weigh the options fairly, and can produce primarily fair opinions.

Internet friends are even better. They don't see the friendships, have alliances with many or all of the parties involved, nor do they have hidden agendas or vendettas. They can observe the facts without bias, and provide solid and unbiased advice. The bonus is that they also care. They can look at their friends, and know to be kind and fair when giving advice.

The only problem with internet friends in that invisible wall. (Cue Draw With Me.) A giant, faceless, ceaseless, emotionless, and gelatinous expanse that exists between all internet friends. It's a subtle beast, who holds friends at arm's length. It separates them by time zones, internet availability, schedules, and accessibility. I have friends in many parts of the world. North America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and Asia. There is maybe a collective of 6 to 10 hours of the day where I can actually see some of these folks, cutting down the time I can talk or spend time with them at any given point. That's also assuming I'm free all day, and so are they.

Beyond that, that's just time to talk and converse. I can't take them out to dinner, ask them to pop off to the gym with me, go swimming with them, or anything. In most cases, without considerable driving or a plane ticket, I'll never meet these guys and girls face-to-face. Never shake their hands. Never give them a hug. Never see them. Ever.

We are the first sort of generation to do this thing, the first generation to be able to yawn, wake up in the morning, and say "howdy" to someone on the other side of the Earth. I regularly talk to people from the future, and that's something I'm almost certain my parents' generation has ever said. It's a unique thing, but one that provides little frame of reference. We're sort of alone in this venture.

Don't get me wrong, I love it. I like being able to say "One of my best friends is from a country that spells 'armor' with a superfluous U." But it can be a little alienating, can't it? To have this giant, expansive, invisible wall between us. I'll never see a movie with this guy, and barring some crazy twist of fate, I won't have the chance to shake his hand.

It's the price we pay when facing the online friend. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't give it up for anything. (Except maybe an endless supply of plane tickets to meet these folks in person.)

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