Post 3.13 - Fraternity

The internet has changed how friendships work. Through Facebook, other social media, even this blog, I find myself interacting with people I haven't seen, in some cases, in up to 30 years. In other cases, there are people I've never met at all, at least, not in real life.

There was a time, when the internet was young, that telling someone you met someone over the internet was a source of embarrassment. Now it's just a matter of course. In my case, there has been a chain of connections, starting with someone I knew, which led to their internet contacts, which in turn led to their internet contacts. Only a small percentage were truly random, out-of-nowhere sorts of connections.

I even have business colleagues that I have only ever experienced via e-mail, online chat, and telephone. It's become the nature of the world.

So is this intimacy false?

Some of the more uncomfortable conversations I have had online have been with old friends. It isn't to say that I am not willing to be a source of support or a shoulder to lean on, but the ease with which some embrace telling me very private things has been a bit stunning. I have learned about sex lives, sperm counts, illicit affairs, abusive marriages, financial crises -- it's really incredible. In the most extreme cases, people have sought me out after an absence of a decade or more, based on the relationship we had when we knew each other.

Again, I don't mind, but I think it has revealed how lonely people are. The intimacy isn't false. If you knew me before and you felt you trusted me then, I am a natural candidate, and now I have the added benefit of being removed from your daily life and am therefore largely impartial. And people still need that.

And if you're reading this and you know me and feel you fall into this category, it isn't intended to offend you or make you feel like you're oversharing. I'm not shy about telling people when they're oversharing or that I'm not comfortable with the conversation. It's 100% okay.

But it makes me wonder what is missing that we don't seem to have such confidantes in our daily lives anymore. The "natural" progression would suggest that once we marry and have our own families, our partner becomes the focus of our "friendship" energies, and we're lucky to have more. And even then, maintaining adult friendships where we can really talk, share, or work out problems can require significant effort to be successful. We have to make time, we have to hire babysitters, we might even have to get a spouse to go along or agree not to go along.

With the internet, we just log on and pick a friend.

I guess this is highlighted to me because of the increased contact in my life now with people from high school and college. With many of them, I think I "talk" with them more now than I ever did when we were actually face-to-face every day. And it's been positive because school or childhood has offered a basis for our knowing each other, but the substance is about who we are now. We relate as adults, not teenagers.

Although I do admit getting all excited if someone from high school that I admired comments on this blog, as if I'm 16 all over again. The cool kids like me!

I'd be interested to hear the experiences of my readers in this area, especially those of us who pre-date the internet.

Have a question or a suggestion for a future topic? E-mail me at


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