When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that.
~ Gertrude Stein
Special K and Toast
A Walk in the Woods
(I'm still reading at Clinton's book, but I'll just post when/if I finish it rather than keep it on here every day!)
TODAY on TV
Jeopardy, of course!
Check a Sheila Video
14 July 2004
I once knew a guy whose wife referred to the people with whom he had discussions on line as his "imaginary friends."
I remember when David was alive, in the earlier days of my presence on the Internet, when there would be CompuServe conferences and Id say something like "I have to go to a conference..." Hed get impatient and say, "youre not going anywhere, Mom. Youre just sitting in your office."
The internet has made our imaginary lives rich but it has redefined "relationships," I think.
This was prompted by a recent entry in Marys journal. She was responding to some survey and wrote:
I got all huffy at feeling "un-noble," not on a par with Mary's use of a computer for balancing her checkbook (ok--so I wasn't huffy, but it did get me to thinking).
Mary is a part of a very special group of people who have become friends and who have remained friends for more than 10 years. We are also a group of people who would never ever have met each other without the Internet.
We range in age from 30s (I guess 40s, now that Trisha has had a birthday) to 70s. Geographically we span the globe from the West Coast of the United States to the British Isles and down to Australia. We are married, divorced, never married. We are male and female. We are gay and straight. If we were to be dumped in a room as strangers, we probably would not gravitate to each other. And yet this group of people has become one of my most solid base of friends and I can't imagine life without them.
It was one of those serendipitous things. We somehow all found our way to the "Women's Issues" forum on CompuServe in the days when everything was done in DOS and "The World Wide Web" was just a rumor. The idea of the forum was to discuss the burning issues of the day, but we slowly began discussing the sorts of things one might discuss at a coffee klatch. Oh, we discussed the burning issues of the day too, but those things have a short shelf life. Raising kids, chasing dust bunnies, the care and feeding of spouses, ironing, eency weency spiders and whether Ken Jennings is ever going to lose on Jeopardy are the kinds of meaty topics that go on forever.
The core group is still there. We've weathered the end of the Issues Forum, of which our little Section 16 was a part and the move to the Political Debate forum, where we were given Section 6 as our new home. And now with AOL gutting CompuServe and making it all but impossible for people to stick around, we have moved over to a private group elsewhere on the Internet. We are not going to lose each other!
We met face to face for the first time in 1996, just shortly after David died (though the meeting had been planned before his death). We met in Boulder, Colorado and there were about 20 of us who came from all over the world to spend a weekend getting to know each other up close and personal.
The meeting was so successful, that we planned gatherings together every year after that for the next several years (they seem to have tapered off a bit now). We named them "Netstock." We met in Seattle,WA; in Austin, TX; in Portland, OR; in London; in Washington, DC and in Ashland, OR (I may have missed one here). We also visited each other individually. I've stayed with Pat several times in Burbank, I've gone exercising with Mary in Seattle. I've toured Chicago with Ellen, I've visited Cathy in Santa Barbara, I've given a tour of San Francisco to Sian and diane from England.
We've weathered personal crises--they were there for me with the death of David and Paul just as strongly as the face-to-face people. Others in the group have also gone through painful grief processes after deaths. There has been divorce, sickness, "coming out" issues, problems with children, job changes. We've watched babies born and begin to grow. We've offered advice on parenting problems. We've all shared our highs as well as our lows.
In short, we are as much a real "group" as what you might have in your home town--only our home town is the Internet.
I am fortunate to be part of more than one such group, though this is the group to which I have the strongest ties.
There is also Steve's group, the core of people who were all brought together as a result of the Internet and of The Last Session. We've watched the successes of both shows, The Last Session and The Big Voice, weathered the ups and downs of Steve's health as well as the health of others. We had an on-line death watch when Dickie died and the "funeral" we had on line was every bit as sincere and as emotionally painful as if we had been in the same room together. We cheered when Dory was able to meet her idol, Ricky Martin, and cried when her young life ended all too soon.
(I will always think fondly of Ricky Martin for his kindness to Dory and how he stayed in contact with her until the end of her life)
I have wonderful face-to-face friends as a result of this group too, primarily Steve and Michael, and to an only slightly lesser degree people like Gabi, Martha, Sarah and others, whom I don't see nearly as often, but for whom I have a great fondness.
CompuServe also gave me "A family we chose," a group of people who started out in the Issues Forum's gay and lesbian area and broke off from CompuServe years ago, but who, like the Women's Issues group, formed their own private group elsewhere on line. Out of that initial CompuServe group came my friendship with Olivia and David Gerrold, and, later, my friendship with Mike and Bill, with whom I lived in Houston for 6 weeks, to help out when Bill was recovering from a hospitalization. Bill's death was another very painful time on line, as Mike sat by his bedside and sent messages to the group letting us know how the day had gone.
Once I became active in the journaling community, I found I had a new circle of friends. People like Marn, cheering her on in her body building activities and recently running her first marathon (us old broads have to stick together), Mary (Bozoette), and the publication of her first book (of which I am proud to own a copy--everyone should!), Denver Doug, everybody's favorite old sage. How we all grieved for him and his wife Heather and the recent death of their son. Rob and his tales of his little Chubbin as the family all struggles with the problems confronting all of them, as well as their adventures in hamster husbandry. Terri and her 2002 miles biked in 2002, and getting tears in my eyes when she actually achieved that goal. The Bitter Hag, taking a hiatus now from journaling, who ventured out onto the bike trail with me, tentatively, kept me biking on weekends, and went on to far surpass any biking adventures I could even think about aspiring to. And so many more...
It may seem to some who have not stepped out onto the internet (yes, David, I know I haven't physically gone anywhere) or who have only read web pages on the net, without participating in group interactions, that all of these people are, indeed "imaginary friends." But they have all become so much an integral part of my life, such close friends, both on-line and face to face, that I feel very blessed to have been alive during a time when the Internet makes this sort of thing possible.The Internet has redefined our notion of "community." It has expanded our circle of friends and erased distance as a limiter of neighborhood.
"Netstock 3", 1998 - Washington DC