Friday, May 05, 2006

Virtual friends and connections

People are frequently surprised to learn how many people I consider close friends whom I've only 'met' online. I guess I'd be surprised, too, if I'd not spent the last 10 years of my life working online in some capacity. Though I don't have a paid online job at the moment, I continue a volunteer position I've held for many years, sending out subscription notices to parents of children who subscribe to a particular newsletter. This is to comply with the COPPA (Children's Online Protection and Privacy Act) laws, keeping parents informed when their kids ask for mail to be sent to them from a particular site aimed at kids.

I began my online life in 1996 on AOL, like a lot of people start out with. I learned, through avid exploration, that there were these things called 'chats' and that the chats that occurred in sponsored areas had 'chat hosts'. I very much wanted to be a chat host, though I learned that most were unpaid volunteers. I still thought this was pretty nifty, and figured that, if the Internet was the wave of the future, then learning the ins and outs of chat hosting might be a surfboard upon which I could ride that wave. I was right.

After a few months of volunteering as a host, I was hired to be a Chat Coordinator, which meant I got paid a miniscule amount of money to coordinate with up to 40 volunteer hosts to staff chat rooms. While this was no easy gig, I did learn alot, and made a lot of friends in the process. At that time, kids over the age of 13 were allowed to be hosts, so I made a lot of teenage, as well as adult friends. Ten years later, those kids are adults, graduating from college, going on to grad school, most of them, and I still know and am in contact with a half dozen of them or so. I hear from others out of the blue from time to time, but the six or so that I talk with frequently feel like my own kids.

There are adults, too, that I keep in touch with, and they are among those I count among my closest friends. We've been through a lot together -- births and deaths, divorces and marriages, health and illness, despair and happiness. And I am definitely the better for it.

Today I have this blog, which allows me to blabber unfettered to whomever might come across this tiny little corner of the Internet. I still have many virtual friends, but be assured that I also have a lot of "real life" friends, too. Some of my virtual friends have become real life friends, and some I hope will become that in the future.

Whether a friend is someone I see in person or just check in with online, each friend is equally real to me, and their presence or lack thereof matters greatly to me. I am so grateful to have been given that opportunity 10 years ago to learn to make connections without boundaries. I can't imagine my life without my "virtual" friends.



Anonymous said...

woot! that's me! i be yer virtual friend and yer real friend, baby! woo yeah! ahahahahah. Nice post. It will appeal to the masses. ;) Signed, An Nonny Mous Tater

RunAwayImagination said...

It's a good thing you were online when I needed to find you!

Rick said...

Add another friend. Enjoy your site and added a link to you at my site. Thanks for your writing. Godspeace.

Capriquarian Girl said...

I love this post! "make connections without boundaries" - love it.