Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ruminations on Internet Friends

A more accurate title for this post might be "Keeping Up with Old Meat Space Friends on the Internet." But the title I gave it goes with the last post's title, and the point is to consider the most social aspect of the Internet or at least of email. The best or most social aspect of the Internet is the ability to keep up with your friends no matter where they are. I've never missed a high school reunion in twenty-nine years. For the tenth, I saw lots of people that I hadn't seen or spoken to in ten years, caught up, went home, and lost contact again. Ten years later it was 1998 and things were a little different. Email and the Internet had come on the scene in a big way. Now it was possible to get in touch with old friends via email before the event and to stay in touch afterwards. I reestablished contact with some old friends, including some that I would not see at the reunion itself. Those friends ranged from Europe to California. Our "Reunion Queen" Sally was able to use email and IMs to keep up with the farflung reunion committee from her home in Philadelphia even though the reunion itself would be in Broward County. After the reunion, I could continue to keep up with my old friends via email. I kept up with several for quite awhile. Sometimes the conversation petered out, but I take comfort in knowing that Sally has their email addresses and I could start again anytime.

For the twenty-fifth reunion I got reacquainted with my old friend Jacki. It was almost like picking up where we left off. We still haven't seen or spoken to each other because she didn't come to the reunion and we never call each other. I don't even think I know the number to call Thanks to email we can communicate asynchronously when the mood strikes at any time of the day or night. The other can read and respond whenever. It works. A highlight of our exchanges had to be when her teenage daughter developed a crush on the new boy next door. Jacki freaked out, and I got to remind her that once upon a time, she was a teenage girl just like her daughter and she never did anything that would have embarassed her mother. How many people could have reminded her of that based on personal observation? What are the chances that I would have been there to do it, if it weren't for the Internet and email. After all, she lives in Pennsylvania while I live in Florida and we haven't seen each other in at least twenty years. We would never be pen pals if we had to write letters and an exchange like that would not have had the same timeliness via mail. The telephone might have had more timeliness, but I seriously doubt that we would ever have chatted regularly on the phone. We've both got families to chat with so who has time to do it via phone?

Then there's my best high school pal, Danny, or as he is known these days, Dan. He's a doctor and lives three quarters of the way across the country in Scottsdale. We're both busy with work and families, but thanks to email we exchange the occasional note, joke, picture, or e-card. We've even seen each other when he came here for a medical convention and my family went there for his kids' bar and bat mitzvahs.

Now I've taken the next step with a blog, Jaiku, and Twitter. Today I discovered a Google Gadget that let's me create a gadget with my picture and some comments that can be posted on a friends custom Google page. I've sent it to my wife for her page, but I could see a tab on my iGoogle devoted to these gadgets from my closest friends. Then we could really keep up with each other as we changed what is, in effect, a collection of mini-blogs. We'll see if any of my friends and family follow.