My friend Indra asked me a great couple of questions recently.
“How come we feel like we are good friends with people – some for a long time – we’ve never met in real life? Does the internet and social media make you want to meet more people instead of less, too?” It’s taken me a while to come around to answering this, because it’s something I think about often, but haven’t been able to articulate.
I’m a social introvert. I love being around people, yet I love a good dose of isolation. With social media, I can, in some ways, have both at the same time. For instance, I can take my time answering questions, like this one. （＾＿・）
In some respects, online relationships are like pen pals in that there are written exchanges. But it’s more like being a mouse in someone’s room. You can sit in silence, nibbling your cheese, while they ramble on to themselves like a crazy person. And that’s when you get to know them. If you’re both in the same room, there’s a good chance your crazy ramblings will cross and make some sense, and you get to know each other.
You may learn enough about a person that you feel you’d like to meet them in person. I have done this often, and with great results. (That’s how I met Indra, btw.) One of the best advantages to online relationships is that location is almost meaningless. You can be friends from across oceans, and when your travels bring you in proximity to one another, you can finally meet. Sometimes those meetings are fruitful. I know mine often are.
But I can only be close friends with a limited amount of people, and this disappoints me. I’d love to spend more time with my friends. I’d love to spend more time with my wife. I’d love to spend more time alone. I’d love to spend more time making things. I’d love to spend more time sleeping. (I should be sleeping.) I can’t do more of all these things. In fact, I’ve basically given up trying to make time to play guitar; I just can’t do it all.
The only answer I’ve come up with is to make sure I get enough time to be in isolation. It’s the only thing I can truly control. Plus, I’m a terrible friend, husband, and employee if I don’t get enough time alone to sort out my thoughts. I’ll continue meeting new people, and I’m sure there will be meaningful friendships that emerge, but only of I take care and nurture myself.