Virtual World

June 25, 2008 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

I guess anyone who is reading this blog has contemplated to some extent the commonalities and the boundaries between communications, friends, and community in the online world and in the flesh and blood world. I have logged a few hours thinking through those distinctions myself, but I had an experience this morning that really brought me up short on that point.

Several years ago, I started contributing to an email list that had at it’s basis the appreciation of a particular writer. Over time, I got to know (at least in the online sense) perhaps twenty other regular contributors. The author who formed the base of our common interest lived and worked in the western US and most of the regular contributors also make their homes in that region. Many of them get together in “real life” having dinner, attending concerts and throwing weekend-long parties at each other’s houses. At least one marriage has taken root and been nurtured by list participants. Being a couple thousand miles away from most of this gang, I haven’t attended these events. But I did have lunch once with another east coaster. It’s a community.

Lately, I’ve drifted in my list participation. Being of the appropriate sex and demographic, I was a pretty hard-core Clinton supporter in the recent Democratic primaries. Many of the list members were passionate devotees of the cult of Obama and I found their attitudes just the least little bit smug and smart-ass. Also, I was trying to become very serious about sourcing my food locally and cooking from scratch. Those of you who are also doing this can attest that it takes a chunk out of one’s leisure time. I found it possible and convenient to pull time from the virtual community of Obama smartasses and spend it baking bread — and starting this blog. I didn’t unsubscribe from the list, but I did filter it into a folder that I checked only randomly. Since I didn’t think I had the time to respond thoughtfully to posts, I chose not to respond to any of them — short or long. I didn’t figure anyone would particularly miss me and it seemed to be the case.

This morning, however, I had a personal email from a list member alerting me to the fact that several list members had, in fact, noticed that I hadn’t posted and were posting urgent and worried messages inquiring after my whereabouts and condition. My friends were worried about me. My virtual friends. My friends I’ve not actually ever met.

What measure of time and duty do I owe to the bond I seem to have established over several years of regular list participation? Is a community in the ether just as important as a community in real time? Is it just a generational thing with me that I’m even making these distinctions? Aren’t friends…..just friends? This morning, I’m pondering this.

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Entry filed under: Piedmont.

Sleep Acceptance, Judgement, Mercy

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