Friendships in a Digital Age

This is a subject that has been pretty close to me since the first time I exchanged emails with Christian Dumais all the way back in 2000.  It’s become even more pressing the past few months, as I’ve begun dipping my toes in social networking technologies that claim to bring us all together.  I’ve got to say, I’ve met some incredible people via the Internet.  So much so, that when I say “buy so-and-so’s book,” I really mean it – not as crass and cynical marketing, but because I have a serious interest in that person’s wellbeing and artistic success.

Hell, I don’t really have any close friends in my current workaday world for a number of different reasons.  And I’ve experienced firsthand the admittedly silly but nonetheless real condition of SWCS (Silly Web Crush Syndrome), something that I have problems distinguishing from any other Silly Crush I’ve ever experienced since I was 10 and had the hots for Maryanne from Gilligan’s Island.


Friend of, Jesus Angel Garcia, addresses this directly at Twitip, and is the only reason I bring it up.  Follow the link and give Jesus some love.  He’s not just an ambitious artist, he’s a pretty genuine human being:

This gets into a topic of great interest to me: What does intimacy look like in an e-culture? In this case, we’re talking about the intimacy of authentic friendships.

I wrote a provocative multimedia novel. To spread the word and find an audience, I signed on to Twitter about a month ago and I’ve gained a decent number of friends and fans (aka “followers”) since then. The thing is, I’m only interested in adventurous, open-minded, kindred spirits — not bots, marketers, and number whores.

Earlier today I posted the lyrics to a provocative song related to the novel. It was funny to see how…


7 Responses to “Friendships in a Digital Age”
  1. Yeah man, I hear you. I think about it all the time, too. I mean hell you, Christian and I used to talk all the time and then slowly things, life, shifted and now here we are again and it’s like, for me, nothing has changed.

  2. Suzi M says:

    Great topic!! Over the years, as my hermit lifestyle has blossomed more and more into a full-fledged agoraphobia, I’ve turned to the ‘net for social activity. While I’m on a lot of social sites, I find Second Life really allows me to have an almost tangible experience that Facebook and the like can’t quite replicate.

    I’ve also found that my electric friends (Gary Numan had a good point!) are some of my best friends.

    If you’ve never read The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, I highly recommend it. You can read it free here:

    The scariest part of the story is the copyright year.

  3. nfpendleton says:

    This is true, Adam, though I would argue it’s better now. One of the great things about the technology, is that develops in ways people want it to. Social networking was pretty much to be expected for social animals. Now we’re making it easier to do, and those of us “in the system” have managed to adjust our perceptions and emotional responses to accomodate the digital filters, e.g. we’re not thinking about the computer and the blog and twitter and etc. when were messaging. We’re simply “communicating,” or even more simply, “we’re chatting.” The ideas of virtual this and that are melting slowly away, and all the previous handwringing about real vs. simulated engagement are yesterday’s worries. When the mind and emotions are engaged, what’s really virtual about that? We will soon find a way to integrate our physical realities into this paradim; our humanness demands it. It’s currently “what’s missing” from the equation. then the line between cyber/virtual blurs with physical. Here, we might find away to solve problems in ways otherwise shut off from us. The video games will be really cool, too.

    Suzi – I’m finding that I’ve been able to make contacts with people that heretofore have been kept away by distance, fame, etc. Never before really has this been possible. We can form relationships with people who otherwise would have been pedestalized. A new mentor class and an engaged, interactive user class is resulting, even if it’s just a side effect.

    Also, your agoraphobia is unacceptable. Since we’re officially friends, you and I have travel plans to keep. Sun and wind and water are gooooooood…

  4. nfpendleton says:

    Copious apologies for all the typos. Hopefully you get the gist.

  5. Suzi M says:

    All true! And yeah, got the gist. 🙂

    By the time travel plans come around, I hope to have a full almost sinful prescription to Xanax or whatever better living through chemistry science can find that will keep me off the ceiling of a plane when traveling.

    Also true about the virtual meeting of famous folk. Twitter has really leveled the field there, no doubt. I’m virtual friends with David Pogue of the NY Times. Kind of cool. Met him at a conference, and because of Twitter, we stayed in touch. Really awesome. 🙂

    I met Derrek and Christian as a result of their antics on a Neil Gaiman discussion board, funnily enough.

  6. nfpendleton says:

    Derrek on a Neil Gaiman board? Someone should let him know that officially makes him a geek like the rest of us.

    Instead of the planes and Xanax, we’ll take a rowboat. Good upper body workout, scenic.

    Just don’t let me forget my Dram.

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