Thursday, 25 August 2011

Online Friends, Real Life Hugs

So, with my weekly column now appearing over on every Monday, and with my occasional geeky musings being saved for that, this blog was fast becoming redundant. But I don't want it to be. I still have things to say! So, with that in mind, look to hear from me on the interwebs three times a week! Mondays will see my regular sidekick column, discussing comics, films, computer games... Whatever takes my fancy! Then, come back to this blog on a Wednesday or Thursday for a random piece on anything that comes to mind that particular week, and then, finally, at any point from Friday to Sunday, look for some kind of diary or update on what's going on with my more creative endeavours, once again to appear here.

So, what do I have for you today? It's a rant. I haven't had a rant for a while, so this should be fun. But what am I ranting about? The internet.

More specifically, the relationships we cultivate with other people through the internet, and how those relationships can be really weird. Internet relationships are strange things.

The advent of social networking sites such as facemypartyspacebook (or whatever) has absolutely changed the way we interact with our friends, as well as how we go about meeting new people and making that tentative first contact step. Nowadays, all you need to do is update your profile, change your status or post a tweet, and the entire world knows what you're thinking. You can post on facebook about how you're feeling down, and watch as any number of friends, family, oblivious women you have a creepy crush on or strangers ask you what's up. Put the same thing on twitter, and chances are you'll get a load more friends and strangers asking you what's up, and then some spam telling you how to earn dollars from home. The internet gives us a way to instantly let people know how we're feeling, and receive some kind of comfort. And mocking. Endless, endless mocking.

Is that a bad thing? Of course not. Having your friends send you internet hugs and well wishes is nice. But, it's no substitute for having an actual hug from an actual friend, family member or object of your creepy affections. It can be frustrating sometimes, that you apparently have all these people so concerned for you who are just that tantalisingly out of reach. The problem is, these people who care about you so have their own lives to lead, as they should. So while they genuinely want you to be okay again, and would very much like to hug you, they're just too damn far away in real life, and unfortunately, they have a prior engagement they can't miss. There's nothing wrong with that, but it can leave you feeling like you're not quite getting the comfort you wanted as fast as you would like it.

So, what about the staying in contact with people aspect? This, I have to admit, is a positive boon. I have friends all over the world these days. Phone calls to far off places like America are expensive, and letters take ages to get there. Through social networking sites, however, as well as other communications tools such as Messenger or Skype, you can have an instant conversation with anyone, anywhere at no extra cost. Awesome. It's easier than ever to stay in contact with your friends these days, and that's largely down to the internet.

That said, once again, the internet is no substitute for actual physical contact. What would you rather do, talk to your friends on Messenger and put up with the bastard who insists on using text speak and ends every single sentence with "LOL", or actually go out and have some food and a few drinks with your nearest and dearest? I know which sounds better to me. The thing is, the internet has made it perhaps too easy to keep in contact. Yes, great for the long distance friendships, but what about the people who live a few streets over? You can go weeks without seeing someone who lives close by, simply because you've been chatting to them online and don't feel the need to actually see them. That's a shame, because there's nothing like laughing with a few people you have an actual fondness for, and being able to look at the person you're talking to without them freezing for twenty seconds, or looking all blocky, or moving with the jerky motions of a drunk stop motion chicken. The internet is good, but it isn't, and should never be, a replacement for actual human contact. As a wise man once said, just need a little of that human touch.

And this brings me onto the main point which inspired this particular rant in the first place. Online relationships. Now, meeting new people on the internet is a good thing. A number of people who I now count among my closest friends are people I met on Twitter. The internet is a great place to make new friends. You can have a look at a facebook profile, and instantly be greeted with a list of that users favourite things in the world ever! Got some things in common? Strike up a conversation! Doesn't always work, naturally, as some people are lame, but still, it's a start. However, there's something I'm seeing happen more and more, and I'll be honest with you, I just don't get it.

Maybe it's just that I'm old before my time, but people who claim to be in a romantic relationship with someone they've met on the internet... Well, that just baffles me! I'm not saying you can't meet someone through the internet on a social networking or dating website, and start a relationship with them ever. I myself have had two girlfriends who I first met online. There is nothing wrong with that at all. But people who claim to be in a relationship without ever having actually met their "partner" in person? That's nonsense, surely! You can connect with someone, but how do you know you're attracted to them if you haven't met them?

Yes, I know, attraction goes beyond the physical and it's a shallow person indeed who suggests that's it all down to looks. That isn't what I mean. When you're attracted to someone, enough to attempt a relationship with them, it should be the whole package you're attracted to. The way they look, the way they move, the way they smell, the way they laugh... These are all huge parts of what makes someone attractive. You can click with their interests and their conversation all you like, but what if you look into their eyes, and that undefineable something isn't there? Surely you have to met someone before you can declare that you're in a relationship. You can talk to someone online and have a feeling about them, but you need that moment, that spark, in real life before you can safely say that they're someone you want to start calling your other half.

And don't even get me started on people who claim to be in love without having met their partner in real life. That shit just angers me!

Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I'm not going to embark on a romantic relationship with anyone I haven't met. In actual person.

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