Friday, January 23, 2009

The Internet is still evil

I lost a friend today. Well, that may be over-dramatic. I hope so. I'm quite optimistic that "lost" may be a temporary condition. And as for "friend"...

There are a few words coined to describe that curious, but still genuine, feeling that grows up between people who only know one another on the 'net. "Cyber-friend" makes her sound like a cutesy, friendly, prototype unstoppable futuristic assassin, and that's way too many adjectives for anyone. As for "e-pal", "netpal" -- surely "-pal" is only a valid relationship for under-13s. "Mate", "buddy", "chum"? Don't go there. "Online friend"? Just lacks punch.

Ho hum.

Whatever you call them, I have a few. Some appear in the list of blogs I follow or who follow this one -- and I really do appreciate all of you, folks. Please don't vanish. Others, for various reasons, don't appear in any of those lists, but I'm always aware of their presence, and pathetically grateful when they take time to comment or e-mail.

JasmineArdent was one of my favourite writers from Frighteningly intelligent, perceptive and confident. And she liked to argue, as much as I do; she wasn't shy to speak her minds on whatever topic someone happened to be ranting about today. When she agreed with me, which was more often than not, I felt validated. When she argued, I felt stimulated to examine my position in depth. There's not many people who can make me feel like that.

And when I saw that her account had vanished...

It was a little like the feeling you get when you're strolling carelessly across a field on a sunny morning, and you look up to see that one of the cattle that had been dispassionately observing you from a distance has put down its head and is now running towards you. Or, miles from home, you reach the place where you know you left your car, but it's not there. (Yes, I've had both of those experiences.) In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the whole balance of the world changes.

I quit TIBU the same day, although I left my writing up. And, via e-mail, I talked Jasmine into starting a blog.

She was never too convinced by the idea. Blogging isn't the same as taking part in a hothouse, semi-closed community like TIBU. The daily stimulation, the constant feedback -- just aren't there.

And today I discovered that her blog has gone, too.

I hope she gets in touch. But if she doesn't... Has she been forced to delete it for professional reasons? personal reasons? has she joined a cult, or walked under a bus, or gone to work for the FBI, or in witness protection? -- from my perspective, there's no way of telling. I've lost e-friends before that way ("e-friends"? not as ugly, but kinda -- trivial), and it's always disappointing. But there's nothing I can do about it.

Be well, Jasmine. Write soon.


SMG said...

Very odd indeed! I have been in contact with her several times today and she made no mention of deleting her blog.

Ruby Apolline said...

I've also wondered what to call my Internet-friends-I've-never-met-in-person-but-still-consider-friends-some-of-them-very-good-ones. I suppose it depends, as ever, on a definition of "friend" or perhaps "intimacy" or "closeness." I had a friend whose definition of closeness was to ask me how I had slept, what I had for breakfast, what I planned to have for lunch, whether I liked so-and-so's new shirt, etc. I found it intrusive and boring; he eventually told me I was a bad friend. We never had any discussions of substance but spent a lot of time together, boozing and dancing and looking at cute boys. So there's that kind of friend.

If I counted him a friend (and I did), certainly someone whom I have never met but whose mind I find wonderful and with whom there exists a certain sympatico could equally be called a friend, or even a better friend than drinking and dancing only friends. Not quite willing to admit the existence of a soul, I'll say that a person's essence, including their minds, is more "them" than their bodies.

If I sound like I'm trying to convince myself, I am. People still think it's weird I have Internet friends (my common appellation). Oh well. They are stuck in the past.

I hope you find your friend! I'm sure she'll be in touch, unless it is witness protection, in which case she wouldn't have been able to say goodbye before disappearing even if you had known her in the flesh. So there's that.

Nodressrehearsal said...

So, all's well that ends well, eh?

vet said...

SMG, she appears to be back now. I'm assuming she suffered a momentary muscle spasm involving the "Delete" key.

Ruby, "internet friends"? Again, lacks that tabloid factor.

I have enough trouble with explaining to people how I met my wife online. Their minds inevitably fly to "dating sites" and, for some reason "chatrooms", and neither of us has ever been anywhere near such a thing. The idea that you can meet people and form relationships just by writing, not about relationships per se, but about all kinds of things -- seems incomprehensible to them. And I thought "84 Charing Cross Road" was quite a big hit in its day.

NDR -- yup, all's well. Thank you for stopping by. :o)

Anonymous said...

online friends?

Eric Lester said...

My father, grandfather, and uncles were all ham radio operators. (You and I have talked about this before.) I became one, too. Growing up, I was comfortable with the concept of "ham" friends -- people with whom we communicated, all over the world, using media such as continuous wave (CW) morse code, single-sideband (SSB) telephony, and radio teletype (RTTY). As technology advanced, digital modes such as "packet radio" came into use.

When I began to use the 'net and make friends with people online, it seemed quite natural. Certainly there was more of a tradition of decorum on the airwaves than has ever existed on the Internet.

Radio operation requires some professionalism and skill, and there was usually a mutual respect between good operators.

Hams are as enamored of their technology as they are of the pleasure of communication and friendship across the miles. Computer users, on the other hand, are mostly what hams would call "appliance operators:" people who go to the store and buy a piece of equipment, knowing only the minimum amount about it in order to make it work.

I have made many valuable friendships via the Internet, such as yours and the young lady to whom you refer. I have also encountered some colorful scoundrels, depressingly angry and semi-literate writers, dangerous lunatics, annoying lunatics, and amusing lunatics. In short, the whole world is here, with the exception of the parts of it too poor, old, or unimaginative to participate.

Thanks for being here.

vet said...

Eric -- it may seem strange, now -- but I remember the Usenet that I first got involved in as a fairly decorous place. There were huge great screeds on appropriate behaviour, and people who breached them would, for the most part, be genuinely contrite and anxious to mend their ways.

Now I'm thinking that "decorum" is a mindset, and it seems intuitively plausible that, the more exclusive/difficult something is to achieve, the more anxious newcomers will be to fit in and be accepted by the existing community. The easier it gets, the less respect there is knocking about.

Which is a depressing thought, but not really the point of this post...

Thank you for stirring up my thoughts, Eric.

Anon: aww, that's so simple. How did you do that?