Thank You Internet For Growing My Ideas On Friendship, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:16am

I know we often bemoan the state of the Internet. Surely it’s been a home for some of the least civil, most bullying words we’ve ever heard in broad company.

But let’s take a balanced view. That’s how we find our way.

The Internet has also opened up whole new ways of finding and having friends. On the blogosphere we talk mostly about kindred spirits. Whether for surfaces – someone else who loves butterflies! someone else with broad shoulders! someone else who grew up with iced tea spoons! – or depths – you too divorced, lost your temper, lied and felt terrible about it and hoped to be forgiven – we find our pods. Our leaps, our exaltations, as leopards or larks.

But we may also find  friends who differ. I like this.

I’ve talked before about my group of young women friends. We’re extremely scattered, across the UK and the west of the USA. I’m at least 25 years older than everyone else. So our commonality is less straightforward, but no less acute, than friendships of age and place. And it’s been a revelation, negotiating our communication over the years, growing trust, creating a shared language.

For my birthday they sent me this necklace. Inside, their birthstones. My heart, as they say, grew ten sizes that day.

Recently I’ve had heartening interchanges with some other Internet friends too. In these cases, different politics. One former blogger and I got involved in a perfectly polite discussion, she apologized for tone anyway, we chatted privately, and in the end she characterized our opposing views as, “same soldier, different battles.” Which made sense. And which, in the embodied world, we might never have had the space or patience to say to each other.

Another woman and I agreed civilly on Twitter that despite our different positions, we saw each other as friends. In that case I’d say the point of conjunction was the way we both talk. Which seems odd, but works.

There’s another woman who always tells me that she loves my blog posts. I don’t even know her last name.

These are small moments, but they matter to me.

Civility can be easier on-line than in person. I until recently saw these easier interactions as somehow less valuable than the more difficult in-person sort, but I’ve changed my mind. Rather than discount the frictionless relationships we can have online, I now believe they offer a model valuable in its own right. Not Real Life Lite, more like old school pen-pals, if you will. Lessons therein.

If it’s easier to be supportive online – why is it so hard in real life? If it’s easier, conversely, to speak difficult truth online, why so hard in real life? If we learn from difficult stuff surely we can learn from ease? I’m still thinking.

So in the middle of what feels, in the United States, like a long hallway, doors open on either side, people screaming at each other in the small gray rooms as we pass, maybe there are some people walking right next to you. We can agree to keep going until we reach the green outdoors.

Or maybe we can sit down, right here under the fluorescent lights, for tea. Not a revolutionary idea, that, but not all progress requires revolt. I know I’ve got those silver spoons somewhere. I bet you have a tablecloth, and someone else knows how to bake. Someone bring the pakora, someone else the scones, the bao, the Cheetos, even. I’m sure somebody likes Cheetos, and I probably don’t need to argue that.

Pass the whole milk and have a wonderful weekend.


Note: The necklace link is not monetized. I never monetize a Saturday post. Them’s the rules.

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  • May I offer to bring the apricot jam?
    Tea sounds delightful…

    I am so grateful that I discovered your blog those many years ago while surfing the internet. Thank you again for being here and writing from your heart.

    8:07 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, Apricot jam would be delicious. And I am also grateful that we discovered each other.

  • I don’t often comment, but I love your blog – what you have to say, and how you say it. I often re-read a phrase several times just because of the wonderful way you string words together.

    Funny about the young friends. I was on a train last night, a young woman sat next to me, and we started talking. We clicked. At the end of the 3-hour conversation, she got off, but not before we exchanged contact information. She is exactly 25 years younger than I am. We don’t live in the same city so if our relationship continues it will mostly be virtual.

    I treasure each good thing that comes into my life as I am one month into the empty nest, and one month out from my divorce being final.

    8:09 am
    Lisa said...

    @Marie, I think of you sometimes, and wonder how you are doing. Maybe it is good fortune that you met that young woman – online friendships can give us so much. I hope your son is well, and that your life opens up now for you.

  • Hear, hear. Maybe it’s my “we don’t talk about these things” upbringing… but I am not at ease with dishing out compliments or criticism… in real life. I find it much easier to say what I really feel… especially the complimentary things…on-line. I don’t gush…. hate that. I’m not rude. I craft my comments carefully. And I very much appreciate the relationships that have blossomed as a result of writing a blog. And reading the blogs of others. Like yours, my dear.

    8:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sue Burpee, And yours. That sweet spot between rude and gushing – it does take time to find the right words, but it’s so valuable. Thank you.

  • I have met such wonderful people online and had the even greater privilege of meeting some of them in person, like you, Lisa! And they have all been even lovelier in person.

    8:16 am
    Lisa said...

    @the gold digger, <3. Until next time!

  • Oh, gosh! You said a mouthful.

    I’m still thinking about civility and have been since your blog post a few Saturdays ago. This morning while walking, it occurred to me that I’d like to give a dinner party after the election themed “What’s Next? A Civil Civic Conversation” and invite people of all political persuasions to consider and discuss — civilly, of course — how our nation can get its s**t together.

    The wonderful thing about a crisis is that it can force people to confront how bad the problem is and resolve finally to address it.

    And what a wonderful gift of gathered birthstones your friends gave to you — like little pieces of their hearts. As you know, it’s the kind of gift children give their mother.

    P.S. I love your posts, too.

    8:17 am
    Lisa said...

    @Ann, “The wonderful thing about a crisis is that it can force people to confront how bad the problem is and resolve finally to address it.” Let us hope, and hope, and hope. I am glad to have you here.

  • Oooooh. Just looked up that necklace. Wow! I want one.

    Nice topic. We just have to be careful that any virtual relationships don’t supercede our real life ones.

    BTW, I love your blog too

    8:25 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, It’s a great necklace, my friends done good. And part of acknowledging that virtual relationships are their own model, in my thinking, means coming to better understand how they coexist with embodied relationships.

    I am very happy to have you here.

  • As an avid Internet commenter and reader of comments I am not sure I agree with you that civility is easier on-line. It’s certainly easier to communicate about things on-line you get your own sweet time to compose your thought(s) without someone breaking in mid-sentence to try and hijack your stage, but it’s also easier to say what you think in a way that’s rude or easy to misunderstand.

    In the past 10+ years that I’ve been on-line I have gotten more restrained about what I fire off. It’s not so easy to turn up people who share whatever has brought you together with them online and out of respect I try not to fan any flames with them.

    8:27 am
    Lisa said...

    @RoseAG, It does take a little finesse in crafting responses etc., but for me that’s so much easier when I have the time that online gives one, the time to wait.

    “out of respect I try not to fan any flames with them.”

    Exactly. What would be the point?

  • Your necklace is beautiful and such a precious, cherished gift from your sweet friends.
    I think wherever you converse on the internet, you have the gift of time if you choose. Time to think over a response, reread it, change it, stop, wait a bit before sending. IRL you speak what comes to your thoughts at that moment. Don’t forget the emoticons tossed in here and there for emphasis, wit or whimsy.
    I have grown to appreciate online conversations very much!

    8:27 am
    Lisa said...

    @Candace, I could not have said this better myself!

  • What a wonderful gift,not only beautiful but emotional,conceptualized with love!
    There is the truth in Marie’s and Cadace’s comments-first, it is easier to tell your whole life to a total stranger (or to the whole world,in this case :-)) and than,online you could read,think,edit,wait…
    I feel really enriched (I said it once before) knowing you,reading some of your blogs-oh yes,I would like to have that tea very much!

    8:33 am
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, As you have in turn enriched us with your tales of your life and your city. I will always associate Zagreb with you.

  • These small moments are what I seem to hold onto more and more as I age. When I was younger, it was always the Next Big Thing. I am finding friendships online that evolve slowly, one of those small moments at a time, and appreciating the unfolding. The absolutely mind boggling, and wonderful thing is when you get to meet IRL, as I did with two of mine recently, and realize we can relate that way as well, as old friends who have just picked up after a long absence. I will share my homemade blueberry jam in our virtual tea time, enjoy a cuppa, everyone!

    8:34 am
    Lisa said...

    @Judy, Homemade blueberry jam! And yes, that’s an interesting insight, that online friendships can in fact evolve very slowly. The extra time is not found only in a few more minutes to compose a reply, but in the longer thread.

  • Your voice is beautiful. It has forced me to comment. Now that I am hiring employees that are the age of my children, I am finding so much to appreciate in my younger colleagues. We learn so much from each other. In regards to the current political climate, I love your civil approach. We can be different, but we all live in one world so we must survive together despite our differences. Let’s turn off the talking heads and just talk to each other. Thank you for doing your part.

    8:36 am
    Lisa said...

    @EmilyK, Thank you, for the kind words and the comment. It’s my pleasure to try and offer an alternative to mean yelling heads, and you guys do even better than I do in that effort.

  • The hall, the rooms of screaming people…
    Civility out the windows…
    We must learn to share space and time together
    There are common threads that would join us
    If we would only allow it to happen…
    Thanks for a thoughtful post…

    (The pound cake is delicious…
    I always thought it went well with tea…
    Your mom’s recipe?…
    Will you share it with me?…)

    8:40 am
    Lisa said...

    @Deede, A little poem:). Ditties always welcome in the halls. The pound cake is actually my stepmother’s:).

  • “I’m sure somebody likes Cheetos”

    Maxminimus likes Cheetos! I’ll bring Max and a couple of bags. This table is getting bigger and bigger, maybe multiple tables set around in your garden like your party for BC?

    8:41 am
    Lisa said...

    @Flo, Of course Maxi likes them! And you have to bring him, we need to break into wild gales of laughter and listen to his stories, spellbound. This could go all night.

  • oh Lisa, you are such a beautiful writer…. happy weekend.
    -Linda, NY

    8:42 am
    Lisa said...

    @linda, Thank you ever so much. <3

  • I’ve been reading your blog for well over two years now and I still find you to be one the most consistently beautiful and intelligent writers I have ever read.

    Personally, I find online communication easier because the medium allows me space to think and process deeply. In real life, or face-to-face, it’s just too much sensory input at once (facial/sound/body cues) so it’s easier to have knee-jerk reactions.

    8:08 am
    Lisa said...

    @Paula, As someone who always wanted to write, and could not muster up the courage to go after that as a career as a young woman, your words mean an enormous amount to me. Thank you. And, “it’s just too much sensory input at once” has been my experience exactly. That’s one of the good things about getting older, the deluge of input slows. And, as you say, about life online.

  • In my opinion, The blog world has created new social circles. I agree with you, people are likely to join in the conversation online vs. in person. It is easier. Agreeing, disagreeing and commenting online, is much different than doing the same in person.

    The connections made in the blog world are strong in their own way. Susan

    8:08 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, xoxox

  • I’m very grateful for the social circle blogging has given me. I’ve made friends with people I never would otherwise have had the chance or opportunity to meet. People from all walks of life and of different age groups. They keep me both young and mature.

    SSG xxx

    8:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @Sydney Shop Girl, Yes! Both young and mature:).

  • Oh, could I bring the Canadian (and, sorry, far superior) version of Cheetos — our Hawkins Cheezies would prefer a chilled glass of Rosé to the tea as accompaniment, but they’re flexible. . . seriously, I’m deflecting a bit because your post touches so many thoughts and I haven’t time between train-catching to respond adequately. Just Yes, Yes, and Yes. Just met a blog-reader in Berlin — she took the train from Hanover to have lunch with me, simply on the basis of our conversation over the past year or two. Even had I never had a chance to meet her, her contributions to my Ferrante Readalong (a virtual bookclub, in effect, although so far we haven’t run to pakoras or Cheezies) would have made her a friend who “gets” some part of me better than many IRL friends.
    Ha! I said I didn’t have time and then look what happened. This is just one of your many abilities, eliciting these responses. xo

    8:17 am
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/Materfamilias, Yes, yes, and yes. I think we can uncover a bottle of rosé in here somewhere:). And had I not just just already read the Ferrante books I’d be there with you guys.

  • Ah tea! and the expanding, and surprisingly overlapping and converging, circles of community. Joy.

    8:18 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, They do overlap and coverge. Very organic, your words make me think about the patterns of creation, not just the facts of existence.

  • Yes, tea all around! Everything happens around the teapot in England and I’d love to pour you a cup my friend. So honored to have met you via this amazing thing called The Blogosphere and look forward to our next gallivant whenever you are ready.

    8:20 am
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, I would love to gallivant again. Now that my mother seems much better situated, I feel that my time has opened up enormously. Maybe we can even have tea this time:).

    OF HAVE SOME DECORUM BLOG………she has passed now.
    I have those ICE TEA SPOONS which we now use for the ice cream!

  • I am always open to having tea and will bring the scones. You have such a wonderful way with words. Thank you for this blog and for your friendship.

  • Oh, I have beautiful silver demi-tas spoons. So tiny, so perfect. You’d never know that I do love Cheetos.

    Always love and know it’s Saturday because of you.

    I’m flying to Pittsburgh to a distant relatives Bat Mitzva because we play Words With Friends together and I’ve loved her husbands blogs.

  • Ah, yes. I too, have been so heartened by some friends on the internet. You among them, my dear.

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