xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: They say online friends aren't real friends

Sunday, October 13, 2013

They say online friends aren't real friends

In December of 2002 I saw an episode of the Daily Show where Jon Stewart talked about the latest new craze in Christmas toys: Likes It Rough Elmo. At the time Child 1 was less than a year old and Elmo was a big part of our lives, so naturally I thought it was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen. Because, of course.

I went online to the Comedy Central website looking for a place where I could proclaim my undying appreciation for my latest discovery and there I found that they had message boards that were devoted to each of the shows that Comedy Central had on at the time (Beat the Geeks 4tw). I created an account using the only screen name I'd ever used before and made my peace. But then I came back to see what other people had to say..... and I started meeting people.

The CC message boards were a free for all text only cesspool of complete shit, with no rules, no moderators, and trolls running rampant. We yelled at each other about politics and the stories of the day, but first and foremost our purpose was to be funny. Our (my) greatest achievement was figuring out how to trick the code into letting curse words get posted. Conversations were had, friendships were formed, and ultimately the boards all went down in a giant blaze of ugliness. But we had made connections that we didn't want to lose, so we searched for a new place to call ours. After several iterations of message boards we ultimately settled down in our own, brand new message board home. That board was created on March 26, 2004.

This is what I look like over there

The years have gone by, people have come and gone, and the board still remains. We've been together through birth and death, through marriage and divorce, through trauma, through joy, through heartbreak, through wondrous excitement, through banality, through depression: through all the shit that people experience in a decade. We've argued politics, we've fought hard over the news of the day, it's been all about the funny, but in the end it's been about a community of very different people who have formed a bond. We've been close, we've been far, we've moved away, we've come back, we've gone in and out of contact, and we've all come back together.

Recently we learned that one of our own, jonfan2, doesn't have long to live. He was born with a congenital heart defect and wasn't expected to live past his 20s, but being the stubborn asshole that he is, now at 42 he's finally been given his last timeline. He posted about it on the board with the intent just to keep us posted on his status, but what he wasn't expecting was that we would all jump into action, pack up our shit and travel to where he was. I came from California but I didn't travel the farthest, Prolapse came from Canada; Juleska came from Afghanistan. We rented a house on a lake in Michigan, dressed up like characters from Alice in Wonderland and we roasted him. It was hilarious and awesome and sad and depressing and wonderful and terrible and absolutely perfect. Because.... of course.

It's been 11 years since I created that account on the Comedy Central board, and right now I'm sitting in a chair in a house in some city I don't even know the name of, in a state I've never been before, surrounded by people I've seen in person only once before or never before. And we all did this, we packed up our stuff and we came out here to celebrate the life of a man we'd all only met in person once or had never met before. Because that's what friends do; that's what real friends do for each other. And it doesn't matter that we'd *only* been words on a screen and screen names to each other for 11 years, because words on a screen and screen names makes you friends just as much as speaking on the phone or having lunch once a month.

A tweet I saw a while back that made me want to write this post

So, to anybody that would say that an online friend isn't a real friend, I present you with us. Our group of friends. Online friends. Is knowing someone online the same as really knowing them?  I say yes. Yes it is. It is the same, or maybe even more. And if that hasn't been your experience, I'm sorry for you. I'm sad that you don't know what I know, because you have missed out. Not just because your experience has been different, but because you haven't opened your heart enough to let the words on the screen in. Words on a screen are people just as much as a face you can see in front of you or a voice you hear over the phone. Just because we *only* type to each other doesn't mean that we don't know each other. It doesn't mean that we don't care, or worry, or wonder.... or love.

Currently, though, I'm just pissed that jonfan2 won't give me his chili recipe. He says I have to wait until he dies before he'll let me have it. Whatever. Dick.