Unmet Friends in Unseen Places

Posted January 1st, 2009 by Mike Cherim

Gas prices are high. Driving my Jeep creates pollution. That contributes to global warming. Driving is also known to be dangerous. I avoided all these negatives this year by doing all of my holiday shopping online. It’s fast, convenient, saves time, and hopefully with the precautions I take and knowledge I posses, safe. I didn’t have to spend hours driving all over creation finding the items I wanted.

Will the Internet save our planet? I started to wonder. It could help, that much seems clear. Transportation, after all, is a large contributor to the aforementioned negatives. I considered this and more. I began to consider other ways the online era affects us. How it’s changed our lives. I thought of friendships old and new and of today’s unmet friends.

Prior to life on the web, my friends where only those who had passed my scrutiny face-to-face, eye-to-eye, mano e mano as one might say. I never had a pen-pal. Not the international exchange kind; and certainly not the prison romance type either. None at all. I was deprived.

Then online changed that. I have developed relationships with people I haven’t even met! I have lived in Italy and in Japan, and I had a number of good friends in those countries, especially in Italy because of my age at the time: I was in my early twenties. Nowadays my reach is even further, and without leaving my chair. I have friends in myriad countries I’ve yet to even set foot in!

This, if one stands back to look at it and thinks old school, is odd. Unmet friends in unseen places?! Who woulda’ thunk it? I certainly wouldn’t have. But you know what? Like online shopping, I view this as a good thing. Not in the sense that I prefer not to have an “IRL” encounter, but rather in the sense of the amazing possibility of it all. Just interconnected wires and waves through space.

I once tried my hand at online romance with a younger woman who was safely on the other side of the country. After a few weeks, though, things started getting dangerously serious and I was feeling incredibly guilty. I confessed to my wife, whom I love, and ended my wired fling. We hadn’t really done anything of course, but the point is, these friendships are pretty real.

I have one friend, a man, whom I consider very close. Like a brother. We just seem to hit it off. I won’t start mentioning names as I’m afraid I’d forget to mention someone important to me. But you know who you are, all of you. The ones I call “guys,” even though some are girls. And the ones I compare notes with. The ones I learn from, and those who learn from me.

We probably won’t meet. I’ve only met one so far, that was Georg from Norway (I will mention him). I don’t really do the whole conference/convention thing so we won’t meet at Some Thing ‘09, but that’s okay. As I mentioned before, these friendships are still quite real.

To those here and abroad I call friends, the met and unmet alike, and the ones in places seen and unseen, I raise my glass in a toast so to speak. If I’m unable to firmly shake your hand or give you a hearty embrace in person, I will toast you with my blog and do so with gusto.

Happy New Year, my friends. I hope for us all that 2009 brings good things.

17 Responses to: “Unmet Friends in Unseen Places”

  1. Tommy Olsson responds:
    Posted: January 1st, 2009 at 4:33 am

    Happy New Year, mate!

    I, for one, am proud to call you my friend, even though we’ve never actually met.

  2. David Zemens - 1955 Design responds:
    Posted: January 1st, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Often times in conversation (usually with my wife and most often about website design) I mention something that I have learned from you. In those conversations, I always refer to you as “My friend from New Hampshire”. It is a sign of the times, isn’t it? The world has gotten much, much smaller because of those “wires and waves” you refer to.

    I certainly agree with you that these friendships are indeed quite real. It’s hard explaining this to people who don’t rely on the internet as much as you or I. In fact, those folks often reject the concept of having a virtual “friend” as if it’s something weird, or abnormal. But it’s not.

    Happy New Year to you too, Mike, and to all of your family and friends, even those you have never met!

  3. Joe Dolson responds:
    Posted: January 1st, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Scratch out ‘my wife’ and insert ‘my girlfriend’ in David’s comment, and I’ll just settle myself with repeating his words. It’s pretty accurate!

    I do get out East periodically, however, so I’m optimistic that we will actually meet someday!

    Best in the new year,

  4. Georg responds:
    Posted: January 1st, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Skoal. Mike and all

    …hope I’ll get the chance to pay a proper visit one day :-)

    2009 will be the year I either get on the web for real, or leave it. Not something I have much control over, but I’ll probably know in a few weeks or months which way it’s going. No matter what: it’s going to be an interesting year.

  5. Gill responds:
    Posted: January 2nd, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    You have just said so eloquently what I have been thinking for a long time. I think I can safely say that I have better friends on the web than I do in person. That may of course have something to do with the fact that they’re never likely to just drop by at inconvenient moments nor suddenly ask for a loan. :)

    I have to say that I’ve never really been tempted to do Internet romance as I’m one of those suspicious types and never convinced that what is displayed is really on the other end of the cable but I am a huge fan of online shopping and have done all my Christmas stuff that way for a number of years. Whether you’re into green issues or not, it’s just soooo much less stressful

    I too class you as friend and mentor and you never know, I may just drop by at an inconvenient moment. Promise I won’t ask for a loan though.

    Happy New Year to you and the family. Hugs and Kisses from the UK (purely friendly ones)

  6. Sarah responds:
    Posted: January 3rd, 2009 at 3:45 am

    I like this because it is written quite differently than most of your stuff. It is quite personal, like an editorial column. I also like the idea. Occassionally the idea of “internet friendships” is quite creepy, but I know exactly what you mean. Networking is a fantastic part of both your social and your business life and knowing people in other places of the world is an effective way to broaden your horizons and open your mind.
    However, I think it is fair to tell you that the part about the “other woman” bothered me quite a lot. I know you love mom and I trust you won’t hurt her.
    I think you might be on to something, the internet may be quite lucrative for our environment, I guess we will find out.
    Nice work, pops.

  7. Scott responds:
    Posted: January 5th, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Seven years we’ve known each other and it just seems like yesterday we met. From acquaintances, to friends, to partners and we’ve never met in person. Wow! Most of my closest friends have been made over the internet. It’s been a pleasure having you as a friend Mike.

  8. Stomme poes responds:
    Posted: January 8th, 2009 at 9:09 am

    Sometimes people you meet on the Internets are better left there. While there’s nothing wrong with this, people ARE often one way online and completely different in real life.

    Someone I know is a member of Perlmonks.org, a large online Perl community. Many Perl people get to meet each other at YAPCs around the world (Yet Another Perl Conference). You get to meet people whom you’ve only known as a screen name. Some of them are as you expected and others are so different you can’t believe it’s the same person. I didn’t know the screen personalities as much when I went to YAPC :E urope but the one I was with remarked on it several times.

    For people who I know on forums, they often get nicknames so RL people know who I’m talking about. You’re Accessibility Mike : )

  9. Marco responds:
    Posted: January 14th, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Happy New Year Mike!

    Well, the closest I’ve come to “meeting” you has been on the phone and with our Accessites work. (Talked to Tommy on the phone as well!)

    Otherwise, I always wonder if Team Access will ever all be able to meet in person? Never say never :)

    It’s great to know and work with you :)

  10. Jen responds:
    Posted: January 17th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Okay so I’m a little late in replying but I wanted to stop by and say Happy New Years to you as well and thanks again for helping with the blog! Now if only I could come up with my next blog topic. Job hunting being what it is right now I’m a little too frustrated to attempt writing something positive on the blog.

  11. Cashmere responds:
    Posted: March 7th, 2009 at 12:17 am

    This is a great concept. I too have made friends world wide but one has never met them. Never thought of internet saving the planet though!

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