12 July 2006


What's a real friend look/sound like?

I started to post the definition of friend here as a foundation, then decided against it.
In my gut, I know what a friend is.
I think you do too.

A friend is someone you can call at 3 A.M. and say, "I'm broken down at mile marker #888 on I-465 and I need help. Can you come and get me?"
Your friend may be irritated, but you know they'll show up.
And they know that if the shoe were on the other foot, they could depend on you, too.

There's a point here, and I'm gonna get to it......bear with me.

Sara Jean and I have lived in this little town for about 30 years, plus or minus.
When we decided to live together 26 years ago, we met our neighbors "Stan and Suzette".

Both are Sara Jean's age.
These two made Mr. and Mrs. Greybeard laugh.
We'd frequently socialize.......they'd come over for dinner and to play cards afterwards.
After an evening with them, our faces would hurt because we weren't accustomed to that much smiling in so short a time.
We loved them like family.....they played important roles in our wedding.

Sara Jean was a second mother to their daughter, 6 years old when we first met them.......
when the daughter reached adolescence and had "female troubles", she came to Sara Jean for help rather than discuss it with her Mother.

When Stan was faced with the prospect of making a decision to change his retirement investment plan, they came to me with their entire investment portfolio, trusting me to guide them in an area where they were unsure of themselves.
(They considered, then acted on my advice.)

You can see why I thought we were CLOSE friends.

They got a computer.
The next thing we knew, they were talking about the "friends" they had made online.
I was amazed.......they would come home, have their dinner, get on the computer and go to a chat room every night to visit with their "friends" from two States away!

Our card playing nights fell by the wayside almost instantly.
Then Stan and Suzette bought a second computer and got a second telephone line so they both could visit the chat room simultaneously!

We were hurt and dumbfounded.
These people........folks we truly considered friends, were more excited about chatting online than visiting with long-term neighbors that helped raise their daughter.
We finally gave up on the relationship.

Don't get me wrong here...... I love my laptop.
With it, I am better able to stay in touch with my family and friends.
I'll even admit to having a few "virtual" friends......but I emphasize the "Virtual" there. I am profoundly aware of the difference between virtual and real.

I think you can get addicted to these damned things.
Check that.......I KNOW you can get addicted to them.

Lately, I'm finding I spend more time than I would like sitting in front of this computer screen. Part of that is my love for the blogs........ once I found I could no longer trust the New York Times to print the facts, I started getting almost all my news via the computer and Blogs.

I started "Pitchpull" a little over a year ago.
I love where it has brought me....... I've had contact via email with fellow Bloggers and some readers, and that has been wonderful.
But are these people friends?
They certainly could BECOME friends......
but they will have to prove themselves over time......
a LONG time!

A "virtual" friend suggested I should open a "MySpace" account.
The reasoning was that I would then have access to MySpace profiles and photos. It's been educational, to say the least, (and oh my, the personal information many people make available there!)

One gal I checked out last week had "12,886 friends"!
An amazingly fortunate soul......right?
I think "MySpace" is more than just a little weird.

Are we all spending too much time in front of a computer screen?
Is it an escape?
Is surfing the net and doing the chat room thing a way of avoiding the work required to cultivate and grow a relationship with real people?

Don't laugh.......
Stan and Suzette spent so much time chatting with "virtual" friends, they lost their relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Greybeard!
I'm concerned with what I perceive.......that it's happening more and more!

So here is my question:
At what point does spending time on the computer become abnormal?
Do you foresee long-term social effects/problems because of this behavior, and if so, what kind of problems?


the golden horse said...


I certainly know what you are talking about. It is a hurtful thing to have happen to you. Have you called them and gone visit them and state your concerns?

When we started in cyberspace many years ago, we got lost up in the information out there and looking for lost relatives, new friends, etc. Just exploring what the computer could do.

Then we realize the weirdos out there trolling for young people. We laid the law down for our daughter and then had to lead by example.

I had found myself on the computer for too many hours a week losing myself. I was getting out of shape and my posture was going south.

Nowadays, we limit ourselves to the computer for short sittings a few times a day. I stay away from chat rooms and other blogs except for our little group. I come back to check any new news, then go on about my way.

I love my email from friends and family and am willing to IM at the drop of a hat. Expecially when a certain friend needs to try out some new equipment and I am the only one awake at that hour. LOL.

I even let some business email go until I just delete it and I have found it really doesn't hurt a bit.
I am getting other projects done and I have found I like this way alot better.

But for staying in touch with old classmates, it can't be beat.

the golden horse said...

Just a added note: Last week there was a big article in the paper about people being more depressed nowadays because they don't have as many close friends. Due to many circumstances, I think maybe this is one of them.

I remember when so many friends would get together several times a month for no particular reason, now we have become so transient, me included, we lose that precious gift. This is the time of our lives when we are suppose to have that time, but we don't.

Anonymous said...

They're lucky they didn't lose their relationship with each other.

Yes, it's addictive, especially chat. There's a feeling that if you aren't there every minute, you're going to miss something vital. The 'friendships' are so easy because online you never do have to get up in the middle of the night to help someone with car troubles. People get to present just one side of themselves, and then they can log off and disappear.

Another side of it is in a town, or on a block or at your place of work, there are all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions. Online you can create an artificial community of a thousand people who are more like you, ignoring the ones that you'd otherwise have to get along with in real life.

I actually started flying as a way to get myself out of the house, away from the computer, to help break the habit.

OlePrairiedog said...

I don't think its the computer that has caused you some anquish there, my friend. I think it is the loss of recipracation. If I have a friend and he or she changed radically and it didn't include me, I would be upset at the loss.
In the early years, Flame and I were living in Alabama, and in our first house. Across the street, were "Bot and Dot". We became fast friends, not just neighbors. We took trips together, had dinners, celebrated birthdays, anniversarys, and some time just hung out. We were having dinner one night with my boss and his wife when we heard the back door open, the refrigerator door open, and close then the back door close. My boss said What was that?
Flame just said it was probably Bot or Dot that needed something.
As always in the military, orders bring a move to other locations, but the great thing about the military, is that where ever you go you will probably run into someone you knew before. And that happened a number of years later. I arrived at my new post in Texas and immediatly looked up Bot and Dot. They invited me into their home and proceeded to prosletize their new found religion. As I am comfortable with mine, I listened with interest, but not intent. After a while, they realized I was not going to change and that I would not become Morman, so that was the end of that. They have never communicated with Flame and I again, as we are not Morman. I was hurt, upset and frankly a little bit dismayed. But mostly I lost some friends to a difference that should be accepted universally. Sad testimony, but I think that is what is bothering you, as much if not more than the computer addiction.

The Old Man said...

Everything in moderation, amigo. Some of us sorta saw this coming and formed a stock club about 13 years ago. The avowed intent is to get together with the other lads whom we all met in college once a month - and if we make a buck or two, God bless us. We have made enough to hold the meetings at a restaurant, so we're not doin' too bad. None of us live near each other or work in the same fields, so 'tis the only thing binding a stay-at-home dad, a laundry technician, a packaging engineer, a Convenient Mart owner, a local delivery truck driver, an accountant, a federal agent, a printing entrepreneur and the owner of a welding school together.