of friendships forged in the era of the internet, part III.

Tonight’s one of those nights where I can’t silence the voices in my mind, so I’m letting my fingers do the work; I’ll just write.

I’m still trying to be honest with what I feel and maybe this is what I actually feel when it comes to those earlier write-ups on friendships forged in the era of the internet:

I have this fear of friends leaving me behind – abandoned, forgotten… I don’t yet know the exact words or terms to use, but I know this fear. I recognize it too well and have acknowledged its presence from as young as when I was seven years-old.

I have this fear of being told, “I’m done putting up with you.” Have had enough, done… I have this fear, a genuine one, of being told, “You’re so difficult.” How many times have I heard those same words, that same statement, in the past? I have this fear of being told that I am no longer wanted or cared for – no longer a once-dear friend. No longer part of a close-knit circle.

It’s silly, I know, but there are some childhood crutches that we carry with us even in adulthood. It’s silly, I’m absolutely aware of it – but the devils under our beds were never actually put to sleep forever, you know? The reality is, they lie dormant in wait. I have this fear of impermanence, despite knowing and understanding – especially now, as an adult – how silly that fear is because nothing lasts forever. “Never define your worth and happiness on other people,” was what Eldest Sis often advised me, “because people will always disappoint.” In fact, to be honest, her first life lesson to me was this: “I can’t – won’t – promise to be there for you because both you and I would know it’s a lie. I can’t even be there for me. I can’t always be there for myself, how can I promise you I’ll always be there for you? You have to learn to be there for yourself.”

I have shaped an entire life, a whole being, around those words – scared silly that I’d hear them again.

“You’re so difficult.” How many times have I heard this in the past?

I’m trying not to obsess over those words, that statement – I’m trying to be a mature adult, learned enough, about this. I’m trying to take this like a woman. I’ve long lowered my expectations on people that there’s practically nothing there; if you’re going to stay, I would love to have you but if you’re going to leave, that’s fine by me too. You’re welcome to do whatever you want and therefore, so will I. And maybe this explains some too, why I sometimes do stupid things, say silly things, as if testing the care and love a person has claimed to have towards me. Because I have this fear, a genuine and pressing one, that these friends – even those found in a virtual world – will in the end, join a long list of friends I wish I could and have erased completely, friends who at different points in time and my life phases have left me behind, abandoned, or simply moved on from me because while I may be too much of this or too little of that, one thing is constant: “You’re so difficult.”

I have this fear, in a frustratingly long list of fears:

When you know my crutch, some of my deepest fears – can you, will you, use them against me?

Because we’re virtual to each other – admit it, in the most fundamental way we are – there’s nothing to hold onto, neither for nor against each other. We could easily disappear from each other’s cyberspaces within seconds, erase all traces and wipe clean memories. Words are both a vice and a weapon in cyberspace – they are a necessity here, a tool to express both what we mean and don’t. Sometimes I don’t know what to believe because if words are the only tools I have to believe in another person, maybe that’s not enough – maybe that’s in truth, nothing?

But maybe I am, in truth, afraid of being forgotten; a hard reset, swift reboot.

I think the true reason that I am a sucker for friendship, coming-of-age stories is because until now, at age twenty-four, I continue to look for my own island of belonging in a sea of friendship circles. I do alone well, but not loneliness. I survive just fine by myself, but I have never said no to company. I can care for my heart, but I am always eager to give a piece away. I am gentle with my soul, but careless with the way I hold it in my palms. I think the love I have for myself is a bottomless pit; I am at times content with its fill and other times hungry for more, but all the while aware that I can’t do it alone.

I think what breaks me, or maybe just scares me, about friendships forged in the era of the internet is that while there is a lot of sincerity – and there’s a lot of sincerity, I am not denying that; I know what I feel, both towards others or in response to others’ words – the very premise is impermanence. There’s very little, or I don’t know if I actually can, hold on to them. Because once we lose contact, for instance a once-regular reader I’ve always only known by pseudonym stops visiting my blog – I’ve no way to contact the person again. Regardless how valuable our conversations were in the past and no matter how much I might have admitted as much to her out loud – once she or I disappears, that’s it. There are no stakes to ground us. We’re just moments in each others’ lives, like those fleeting tweets we put out or these soon-to-be-forgotten blog postings.

I know that I should quit being so hung up about the word virtual, constantly questioning and therefore doubting what’s real. I am, after all, well-aware that even in the physical world, people say things they don’t mean and walk away from our lives all the time; it’s unfair of me to hold others, anyone, to standards and expectations that aren’t even upheld in the real world. I know this insecurity has got to go; I’m supposed to be content with all that I’m given, including people who walk into my life irrespective virtual or real. I’m supposed to be thankful, not greedy, of the connections I’ve made. I know many things in theory, you know this and plenty about me by now – I’m just not always smart about what I do with what I know.

Because I think in the end, maybe this is it: this fear of being left behind, forgotten, erased, conveniently moved on from… this fear overrides many things. Sometimes I think I await the moment these words pay a visit again, “You’re so difficult.”

Admitting this requires another confession: I don’t do friendship breakups well.

I am weak and silly when I love, loyal to a fault. I hold my heart on my sleeve, face, and words – I say and write what I mean in whatever mediums I exist in. This is both my strength and weakness. I am not pretentious; if I don’t like you, I promise you that you and everyone in the room will know it. Sometimes I think I am too open to a fault, an invitation to myself that has all the potential to turn awry. But my biggest flaw, I think, is viewing and taking in cyberspace, virtual reality, as a world that is as real as the physical world. No matter how learned or naive I may be, I just don’t know how not to be real.

This fault is a fear: even in an illusion, I constantly seek for and exist in reality.


6 thoughts on “of friendships forged in the era of the internet, part III.

  1. In real life, I’ve taken to telling my friends how much they mean to me and how much it would kill me if they stopped wanting to see me. I don’t even know how I managed to make friends in the first place, so i don’t want to lose the ones I have. With online friends, the ones that you only speak to via your blog or Twitter, it’s scary to think that all it would take is for them to stop tweeting, and you’d never speak to them again. Some people, I want to add to Facebook except they probably would just think that was weird. That’s the difference between the people I speak to online and my friends in real life, I suppose. My offline chingu, I can be clingy with, lol, but my online chingu, I don’t want to freak them out. But Facebook is like another step into actual friendship. It’s a real name, at the very least. I have a few people that I’ve met online, moved to FB, and then met in real life, and it was as if we’d known each other for years. We live in different countries so we never see each other now, but we have FB and Kakao and so we’re always up to date with each others lives. I’m sorry about this being all in one paragraph, I’m on my phone and the Enter button has disappeared…

    1. Don’t worry about the Enter button – you’re doing just fine and this comment is exactly what I needed :) Ugh, I can’t say enough how much I relate to this: “It’s a real name, at the very least.” Exactly. And that says a lot, ironically – or surprisingly? – isn’t it? I’m active as myself, weird as this might sound, even in Facebook so sometimes I feel like I want some people here/Twitter to add me but then I freak out that I would seem “too real” or different or just… weird.

      “My offline chingu, I can be clingy with, lol, but my online chingu, I don’t want to freak them out.” I feel the same way, except I’m really not cool like that wherever I exist – so here I am basically admitting that in either spaces, I’m sorta-kinda clingy because my friendship circle is cozy (read: small). And I think because I’ve lost so many friends – many cos of my fault for being …too much myself… (“You’re so difficult” is a very real line) it makes me… insecure? Paranoid? I don’t know the suitable word, but I get a little over my head and scared of losing friends – even if this has happened a dozen times.

      Thanks for sharing your story, Caitlyn. I wonder how wonderful as friends we’d be in real life (sorry I’m obviously really and genuinely hung up about this reel/real…) but I’m really glad we made contact here <3

  2. Is this fear about yourself or about other people? In lowering expectations towards others I think it’s the same as lowering expectations towards yourself.

  3. I’ve been thinking about friendship a lot lately, the ones I’ve made, lost, retained, rekindled, or purposefully let drift away. Some people aren’t good for us, for me. Some will never know how much they meant to me. This fall, I went on a road trip with my best friend from high school. 10 years we have called each other best friends, and even though we live far away and our lives are so different now, I find myself treasuring her. Where I am bad with long-distance relationships, she visits me at least once a year. Whenever she flies to see her family, she drives 3 extra hours to spend a couple days with me. I never go to her. I feel guilty about this. But I talked candidly to her once about how grateful I am that she is who she is, and I confessed that if she didn’t make a bigger effort than me at ‘friendship’, on my own I would have probably let life drift on by and lose her forever. We’re honest with each other. I think we’ll always be friends, no matter where or how. After years of planning a big European vacation together and it never happening, we went on a road trip to Montana. It was wonderful, comfortable. It made me grateful once again that I have 1 friend who is and has been and probably always will be friend.

    But even in spite of that, I was afraid. Thoughts like, why are we still friends? Why does she bother. Why do I? Is it habit? Is she trying hard to be the friend I want her to be, because she thinks she ought? Am I tedious? Have I grown boring? Dull? Am I ‘work’ ? If I’m not as adventurous or brave or capable as she is, will she think less of me? Does she already, but she doesn’t show it? My best friend for a decade and I had such DOUBTS. Such fears! Why, why do people – particularly this person – even bother with someone like me? Because everything in this world points to us having very little in common except that we Used to be.

    Internet friends are so different, but still very much the same. You said, “But my biggest flaw, I think, is viewing and taking in cyberspace, virtual reality, as a world that is as real as the physical world. No matter how learned or naive I may be, I just don’t know how not to be real.” I think that hits a very large *ding* in my head. Sure there are acquaintances that I chat with bc we are in the same fandom and it’s nice to just spazz and do fun things for about 10 seconds of our time. But beyond those, there are still the “friends” I’ve made. And I’ve made so many of them over the years, from different fandoms, from different eras. Some linger, and many disappear. Some remain on my periphery and we chat once every few months, but each of us are still “on the internet” and until either of us disappears from the internet, we’ll always be around. Like a neighbor who lives across the street that you wave to, or acknowledge they’re still alive because they still put out their trash can out like clockwork on Sunday night. And I think, “Old Mr Floyd and his dog are still well, and I know this because they go for walks every morning to the end of the block and back. His wife lives in a nursing home now, and that’s all I’ve learned new about him in 2 years.”

    I hate that, but I don’t know how to be a better neighbor any more than I know how to keep friendships from withering. Especially on the internet, especially from people that I’ve gotten past the acquaintance phase. For the people I met once or twice, and online we share pertinent life worries and details but our worldviews are so different we don’t know how to respond anymore. We just talk, one-directionally. For the fic writer I drove 5 hours out of my way to see in Wisconsin because I wanted a ‘solid connection’ even though we chat every day. I wanted to see her face, I wanted to see her house, the other side of her computer screen. I wanted to know her address and her number so that I can flatter myself and if something happens one day where we no longer sign on to twitter in the morning, if she disappears, then I will know who she really was. For people you like who used to live in the same country as me, but now that you’re home, I don’t know anything about your country and that stifles me. There is truly nothing I can share on the culture and politics of your home nation that wouldn’t sound like ‘well meaning but ignorant foreigner’ at best, ‘meddling mental do-gooder’ at worst.


    1. I’ve said it before, but I love you and how you use your words to describe not just situations, physical, real, but ‘the other reality’, the one that makes your brain compute words that communicate your heart in so many tangible ways. “I do alone well, but not loneliness.” That strikes a nerve, because that’s me. You don’t have to say more than that for me to feel a connection that crosses the globe. Does that make the feeling less real? Less sincere, that I am relating to someone whose face I can’t see? Maybe. Maybe not. Even in the physical realm people interact differently. We say things we don’t mean or don’t immediately have time to ‘mean’. I pass on condolences just as awkwardly to people standing in front of me than to people who tell me over the internet, ‘my father died yesterday.’ I don’t know HOW to react. I don’t know which words to use. I stumble and scramble and get awkward and worried that my sincerity isn’t being understood. And sometimes my scrambling makes me accidentally less sincere, because now I’m worry about my words and not about the person I’m telling them to. I feel like we’re all lost like this, no matter the medium. Some people do it better. Some people aren’t introverts. Some people FEEL all the time and do so vocally, from the heart, and in my bitter thoughts I wonder if it’s an act. Or if it’s not. I can’t tell, and that scares me. How much scarier is it on the internet, where my tone and inflections of my head may be read in a completely different manner? Try to read this and picture me laughing, giggling as I come up with bullshit. Or maybe I’m crying because this topic distresses me. Would you know? You can guess, based on the years we’ve talked, blogged, shared our lives, not the details of our lives, but our heart, of what we think is our heart. Maybe that’s all we can do?

      I fear losing friends too. I wonder if they take away parts of me, and they recall me years later in a random situation and wonder how I’m doing, as I do for them, sometimes, when I remember. Did a piece of me go with them? Did they steal it, did I give it willingly? Will I ever get it back? Will it matter?

      “Admitting this requires another confession: I don’t do friendship breakups well.” Neither do I, and I mourn them the same way, friends on the internet, friends in the physical realm. People I went to school with, people who I only see on FB but it’s been so long that it would be awkward if I suddenly stepped in and ‘liked’ a picture of theirs less monumental than marriage or having a baby. I wonder if FB will still exist around the time our generation dies out. If a relative will step in and say something. “RIP” on their wall. What if I don’t look there. What if I don’t see it? Will it be my fault? Yes, partly.

      I have a list of internet friends I stopped talking to years ago. I remember them, the places I think they lived. Every time I watch English football and somebody says “Bournemouth FC” I think of a very important, very influential friend I had who lived in that city, as if that city is her grave. She disappeared into it a long time ago. I am still sad. I wonder about her, I think about her, I pray for her. Maybe that’s all we have left now.

      You know, sometimes I think about your sisters. You never talk about them by name, I don’t know their faces. But you quote their words. I feel like I know them, even though that knowledge isn’t physical. They impact my lives through you. Just as authors impact their readers. That’s not real either. Or is it? Maybe it’s very real.

      Now, before I ramble — TOO LATE! — I just wanted to restate how glad I am that we met, even that once. 2 days and that may be all we ever. I don’t know how long we’ll both be on the internet, but I have a face and an address, and if you someday disappear, I probably won’t fly to your last known place of residence to see if you still live (because that would be creepy, and also require a lot of effort, and be creepy…) But… you shared something precious with me: yourself. That part doesn’t die.

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