Social Media and Friends?

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I never thought about friendships formed through social media, or any technologically mediated communications, as a possibility.  As a matter of fact, I’ve been critical of any claims of such friendships made by students or relatives young enough to never have known a world without such possibilities.  Now I’m going to have to re-evaluate a few established prejudices.  This is not easy after discounting the whole idea as being born from the isolation and desperation of shut-in computer nerds and people so socially inept they can’t form meaningful bonds with “real” friends.

She – a young woman from a medium-sized city located in the border area where India, Pakistan, and Kashmir have established imaginary lines defining their geographical claims.  Several of these imaginary lines are dotted lines, disputes that often result in social, political, and religious divides supported by prideful indignation and suspicion, which makes for a dangerous neighborhood.

Me – a White-looking male twice her age, an American ex-pat who lives in a Central American beach town with fewer inhabitants than some extended families.  The imaginary lines here are as well established and stable as can be expected.  A sleepy neighborhood where not many consider it worth their time to get excited about borders, or much of anything except too little or too much rain.

She – a devout Muslim from a devoutly Muslim family in a devoutly Muslim country.

Me – an agnostic some days, an atheist on others, from a country where formal religions often take the form of entertainment.

She – a poet with a poet’s soul and a degree in economics.

Me – a prose writer schooled and employed in academic environments where poets and prose writers often defined themselves with imaginary lines subliminally or overtly supported by prideful indignation and suspicion, which often made for a…never mind, that’s a pitiful comparison.

But this is exactly how we were introduced – she reading my prose on my WordPress blog, and me reading her poetry on her WordPress blog.  Comments brought replies…replies brought more replies…e-mails became more convenient, then longer… photos of each other and our neighborhoods on opposite sides of the world were exchanged.  She lives in an area that when viewed on a map appears to be the end of the line…massive mountains rise in Kashmir, then there’s not much of anything between spots on the map identified as Ngari on the western side and Nagqu to the East.  I live at the end of the line also, with the Pacific ocean on one side and a semi-arid and sparsely populated peninsula on the other.  We share the inconveniences of power outages, finicky internet connections, and the ever-present possibility of natural disasters that could at any time turn those inconveniences into serious problems.

She has a mother who inquires about my well-being, and a nephew that asks her if I’m coming to Pakistan to visit.  I have a few close friends who ask for updates on her progress with her poetic works and her personal well-being, and a wife who is raising the possibility of a trip to Pakistan…crunching the numbers, so it is said these days.  This all just seems to have happened as if our friendship was a foregone conclusion…organically…not meaning effortlessly, but despite the barriers posed by geography, history, governments, ethnicity, gender issues, current events, and the spotty technological ties that have made our friendship possible in the first place.

Can reading the writing of another, and their reading of my writing possibly be the basis for a meaningful friendship?

Have I become an isolated computer nerd, or so socially inept I have to search out friends from afar?  No, I don’t feel so.  She is nobody’s isolated computer nerd and her social skills are attested to by the many “real” friends she has in her life, the compassion and feeling of depth that comes through in her poetry, and an online presence that is enchanting despite an experience with identity theft on another, popular social media site.

I can’t say that I endorse the cultivation of frivolous friendships on social media sites, or any sharing of personal information with any “friend” made using similar methods.  But, I do know that when a recent round of power problems caused a break in our ability to communicate, the cyber silence made me concerned – deeply concerned.  I think that that is one of the most sincere signs of a friendship.  I also think it’s a sign that I need to re-evaluate my prejudices toward social media.

Maryam Shahbaz’s poetry can be found on her blog on WordPress – do yourself a favor.  I can’t be found by anyone who doesn’t frequent my beach, or read my posts on this blog.  I think we are friends…Inshaa-Allah…Dios quiere…

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30 thoughts on “Social Media and Friends?

  1. I understand your views and share many of your feelings which is why you will not find me on Facebook or Twitter. Because I am a ‘so-called’ businesswoman, my ‘so-called’, colleagues and others who have a sincere interest in my success, have suggested that I need to have a presence on these popular sites. However, I actually feel physically ill whenever I’ve tried to deal with Facebook. I never thought I would interact with so many diverse people on the Internet — and actually enjoy it — as I have over the last few months via WordPress. I grew up in the age where you called someone on the phone (which was a fixture in your home) or went to their home to visit if you wanted to speak with them — and, I must admit, I miss that. However, I never thought that I would, as you have expressed, miss my friends from WordPress when I don’t see them around the WordPress community for a while. PEACE-

  2. Cheeni says:

    Loved it! And could relate to it in many ways.

  3. I understand your original weariness of creating a friendship with a “computer”. LOL!
    Time changes all of that, though…yes? I have learned this over the last 2 years, myself.
    You all are people….NOT computers. I’m blessed to call many my “friends” in a manner…

    • coyotero2112 says:

      A little understanding…and a vote for my non-nerd status. Thanks. I am dragging my sensibilities into the 21st century, with a little help from people like you.
      Later…

  4. “We share the inconveniences of power outages, finicky internet connections, and the ever-present possibility of natural disasters that could at any time turn those inconveniences into serious problems.”
    Out of all the briliant words you out, I focused on this the most 🙂 Most furstrating it is getting now.
    Yes, the most wonderful gift I have got from WordPress, a life long friendship In shaa-ALLAH and to many more projects together.
    My mother and my cousin keeps on asking about you ! And you do have to take a trip here. I have a lot to show you 🙂
    Por vida 🙂
    Luego,

  5. Reblogged this on maryamshahbazmian and commented:
    “I think that that is one of the most sincere signs of a friendship.” It is and regretfully, the power problems carry on the bull in the bull fight you mentioned !
    I had always been most cynical about the cyber space commmunications but, you are right. We have to re-evaluate the prejudices towards it.

  6. Wonderful inner insight!!! How wonderful the age of technology which allows each the experiences of diversity, to share the views, read the stories, empathize and understand the differences in our unity.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      The cause of my concern is age, probably. I always viewed social media as a collection of literary burps, and anonymous bleating. Still plenty of that, but I’ve come across about a dozen people who seem sort of real somehow. I’m sure there’s a pill for this.
      Later…

      • Yes, what kind of real you enjoy is probably a little different than mine. I have interest in simply viewing what it is that some are writing about and why, what they are painting and why, the thoughts a the metalheads and their youthful knowing and unknowing. Just the simple stuff that makes up each life and oh how each still has a journey ahead!!!!

  7. Touche! Community when one is ‘odd’ or ‘eccentric’ or ‘different’ is difficult. We all have friends, but finding a community where our inner voice is not only heard but meticulously listened too is a blessing and different kind of ‘friendship’/community in this way is a treasure.

  8. JC says:

    Friendship is friendship. The introduction matters not. It’s the result that counts. Good on both of you!

  9. Yes, but what does the Philosopher Red think about this friendship?? 🙂

    • coyotero2112 says:

      His rambunctuous behavior lately gives me to wonder if he has separation issues. I think his inner child feels bruised and soggy. Therapy and a change may be in his future.
      Later…

  10. Well written sir! I doff my metaphorical hat to you both. 🙂

  11. words4jp says:

    In many ways I am also re-thinking my thoughts on social media. I have made some wonderful acquaintances. This experience has been very special to me. I do not use facebook or tweet or any of the many other sites ‘out there’ – i am happy with my WP family:)

    • coyotero2112 says:

      I know my distaste for social media comes from those sites you named. WordPress people are a different breed, it seems. And if they’re not, I’ve noticed in a few short months that they are no longer posting anything. Good for us, and thanks for the vote on the side of my sanity.
      Later…

  12. mrs fringe says:

    Yes, these long distance friendships formed through social media absolutely count. I also had a hard time at first. When I realized I was beginning to think of these often faceless, pseudonymed profiles as friends, I was embarrassed, and wondered if I was actually “losing it.” Nope, I have met some of the most incredible, talented, supportive people of my life through social media, and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do so.

    • coyotero2112 says:

      A vote of confidence from Mrs. Fringe…now that will probably go far in keeping me from sort of social re-education concentration camp. Was hoping to get a comment from you…mistakenly erased my follow of your blog the other day while cleaning house. A life without Fringe is a world I choose not to live in.
      Later…

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