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Today's guest is 1more_sickpuppy, an enthusiastic reader and friend to my fellow authors on and off LJ. She has some very perceptive and thought-provoking comments on balancing friendship between online and off-line Life.


Lately I sometimes find myself trying to take stock of my life, think what I have, what people my age ought to have. Family? Friends? Job? Home? Love?

My Facebook is absolutely crawling with baby pictures, and I can really see that shift in priorities among others my age (round thirty) happening all around me. Most of my old classmates are not only way ahead of me career and salary wise, but also married, possibly with children, possibly with house, dog, car, nephews and nieces…

It’s not that I envy them (fine, other than the money) – I don’t want children in my imaginable future, and I would be happy staying single if it weren’t for things like convenience and expectations. I’m starting to think that I will really be lonely once the last of my friends settle down and pop out kids. What will it be like in the future when I haven’t put any energy into building that sort of life? My immediate family consists of one somewhat lonely, ageing mom and one sibling living across the globe. None of my best friends live nearby and they all have their own lives to worry about, splitting their time between family, partners, work etc. What will I really have for show, to see, touch or hang out with?

My question (at last, a point being made!) is this: do you guys count?

I realize many of the readers here are people I don’t know, but you get the idea. What about all this love I put into and receive from the online community? All these hours I spend on the computer, the energy and thought I expend here instead of on “real” things that might actually get me somewhere in life. I love the people here on LJ, the stories I read and the comments, the pictures and randomness posted, the funny exchanges…! I feel richer as a person for having you. But you guys aren’t going to have Christmas dinner with me or come to the movies on Wednesday night. You’re not going to give me a ride to the airport or buy milk and eggs when I’m home sick. And when I'm bursting to share some tidbit or other from online, I can’t talk about it or you with my RL people because then I’d have to explain stuff like ‘slash’, ‘fan fic’, and how the heck come we’re sharing gay porn clips. In fact, my enjoyment of these things and these relationships might be considered to steal time from my studies/would-be career/RL folks.

So, down the road, do I write my LJ friends up on my ‘Have’-list? Does this beloved electronic life count for anything when I turn off the computer and go back to RL?

/ Jo, who finds it hard to combine these two lives yet wants both.



Today's Quote:
"“Every man regards his own life as the New Year's Eve of time." Jean Paul Richter

Today's Daft Google Searches for 'Clare London':
"Morgan Freeman Is Not a Cyborg" who ever said he was...?!


Follow this month with Clare (look at the goodies so far...):

Jan 01 : The New Year is ushered in with the release of the Immortal Fire anthology IN PRINT.
Jan 02 : author Chrissy Munder wonders whether following current affairs in our writing is a delightful touch or just dates us some time down the road.
Jan 03 : author Madeleine Urban describes how her characters hijacked her brain...although she was a willing victim!
Jan 04 : author Theda Black describes how her writing across various genres has been influenced by everything from a bionic penis to the power of Pan.
Jan 05 : author Josh Lanyon shares some exceedingly good books with us - both from his own bookshelf and the latest releases from his own catalogue - and asks about *your* recent reads.
Jan 06 : author K. Z. Snow questions what all the fuss is about authors 'making shit up' - and why we love it.

Want to grab a day to pimp, pose or pontificate? Email me at clarelondon11 @ hotmail.com and I'll happily find you a space ♥

NOTE: pictures credited where known, others may be used without direct permission, please contact me with any queries/concerns



( 35 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 7th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)
I've moved a couple of times and studied elsewhere so I've also found and lost friends that way. The wonder of internet is that your online friends are with you wherever you go, and I agree that's a great comfort.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
Rant ahead...
I'm lucky as partner, friends, family and colleagues at work know what I'm up to. My writing is an essential part of who I am, and keeping it secret from them wouldn't be possible. Many of my friends feature in some way in my books and are a great source of support and inspiration.

Per definition, a friend is "a person whom one knows, likes, and trusts." Can you find such people online? Absolutely. Is it difficult? You bet. But the same is true for your "real" life, too. People can be so generous, caring and loving in the online community, and I met many of my close friends first online. Of course they couldn't hold my hand when I was ill, but the mails, letters and thoughts were such a cheer-up and helped me through many dark hours.

I've seen online friends get together and help people in need on so many occasions. This goes from moral support to springing a quid or two when the bills pile up, to legal advice and offering shelter. Plus there's the banter and the laughs which we all need to stay sane.

(Disclaimer: I'm well aware that there are many, many internet leeches who milk their friends like cows with sob stories of dying dogs and omg terrible illnesses. But then I know the same type of people in real life.)

I guess it's important to find a balance between friends who live next door and are there for you if you need a good cry and a hug at 3am and people who will log in and be there for you if you need a good cry at 3am. Both groups are important, both are supporting, both are friends.

I’m starting to think that I will really be lonely once the last of my friends settle down and pop out kids.

Believe me: being the cool aunt/friend is great. It's not like all the parents out there suddenly lose the need for a friend just because they have kids. Sure, there are some who lock everybody out to become hypermums and hyperdads, but in reality, I found that I haven't really lost any friends because they started a family and I didn't.

To some, having a family with house and dog and 1.5 children is the main target in life, and they feel they failed themselves and their friends if it doesn't work out that way. But there's more to life, and for many, that "more" is not a family with house and dog and 1.5 children. I often experience friends to be envious of me rather than the other way round. "Awww, I'd so love to go for a weekend trip to London, but you know, the kids..." or "You and your boyfriend always have so much fun...".

In fact, my enjoyment of these things and these relationships might be considered to steal time from my studies/would-be career/RL folks.

Considered by - who? Yourself? Fair enough. Considered by others? None of their business. Your life, your choices, your expectations, your decisions. You don't live to fulfil anybody's expectations but your own. And are you certain all of them would see things the way you fear they would?

You love to write, right? Then do it and enjoy it, and enjoy the friendship of those people who share your love and appreciate your work. And who knows, maybe there's one among your "real" friends who'd understand it. Even the closest friends manage to surprise us at times. :)
Jan. 7th, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Rant ahead...
Hey, you're right, the cool aunt/friend role could be fun, at least once the kids are a little older (I am very awkward around children). I know the parents need friends as much as ever, but they seem to be always chasing time or hindered by one thing or the other. Perhaps I just have poor examples/"rolemodels".
But it's more a case of shifting interests: I'm not interested in kids and they are - they have to be, just like I can't stop talking about my goddamn cat while people tap their fingers and roll their eyes... *lol* Perhaps that phase will pass with thime.

Actually I'm not a writer, I just read a lot and interact with the writers through comments and feedback. I enjoy it and get invested in it. That is only a problem because the online community is so huge that it would be more than a full time job to explore everything I'd like to. Thus I have to make decisions to limit my time here because RL, to me, is what matters most in the end. If I'm unhappy in RL, internet easily becomes too much of an escape and that's not really healthy or productive for me. But that does not mean that it can't be an inspiration, solace and great support when needed.

These issues are different for every individual, I'm sure. I'm wrestling with the career thing, having gone back to studying, and trying to think of a job that suits my talents, I rent second-hand... it's all kind of uncertain and I feel the need to get myself on track. So that's why I'm considering these ideas now. In the end I think my own answer is that my online friends & life should be considered a great big bonus, and I must make my decisions so that they are.

Oh, and I do have one or two "real" friends whom I could probably tell a bit about my 'secret life' - I have been close a couple of times, but in the end I chickened out. Maybe one day, huh? :)

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!
Jan. 7th, 2010 12:09 pm (UTC)
I think this is a topic that strikes a chord in many of us, at least if we've built up a community of friends or followers online:). I know I've found huge comfort and support from people I've never met, and in some ways the internet has given me people's friendship that couldn't be found in "real" life.

But I also agree with you, the things I share in one place can't always be shared in the other, and that does make me feel split sometimes. I'm lucky that my family knows what I do and so does my work. But I'd love to have more fellow author friends around me on the same continent :).

On the sobering side, I know of instances where friends have dropped completely out of my life, both in RL and online. The online is sometimes more shocking because it's only then that you realise how little hold you have on someone if they want to vanish from your sight. But the RL losses can be just as frustrating and painful.

I also think that we respond to different things at different stages of our lives - it's whatever suits us at the time. Things will change in life, both in ourselves and from outside, and that'll change our behaviour. I try not to worry whether I've got the balance on-and-offline wrong or right, but just try to keep both going to the extent I feel comfortable and happy with it.

Jan. 7th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it's such a shame when the Two Lives can't be shared, and sometimes it's just fun to have a secret... ;D
The struggle for me is to maintain that balance which is good for me. I often obsess over something for a while, then over something else, like I can only really concentrate on one endeavour at a time. Shifting gears is difficult for me.

Very true that things change throughout our lives, and that we do. I wonder if many years from now I'll be sneaking away with my space age laptop in the retirement home, perving over slashy stories..? XD
Jan. 7th, 2010 02:08 pm (UTC)
Struggled with the same issues, but I'm Ok just having a partner and a house and a job that apys the bills. I interact with "go-getters" all day, millionaires, people that work 4 days straight and then collapse, having netted a lot of money like that.

Are they happy? Not sure. I was chatting to one of them, and he told me about how he went skiing in St Moritz/yachting on the Bermudas, and asked me what I do for hobbies or did obver the holidays and I said I write novels, review books and network with fellow authors.

His face fell and he went "oh wow, I wish I had that time."

And I thought, "you might be wearing a really expensive suit, a fantastic tie, you have great expensive "holidays", likely a wife and two kids, a great, enormous house somewhere in Frankfurt/Munich... but you don't have the time to write a book."

To me, that's the ultimate luxury and self-fulfillment.
Jan. 7th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)

And I thought, "you might be wearing a really expensive suit, a fantastic tie, you have great expensive "holidays", likely a wife and two kids, a great, enormous house somewhere in Frankfurt/Munich... but you don't have the time to write a book."

Wow, this is really profound. It gave me chills!

I tend to get jealous of people who have more time than me rather than more money. Well, probably of people who have more money too ;-)
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Jan. 7th, 2010 02:57 pm (UTC)
My on-line friends count for a lot (bloody long - sorry)
I don't have RL friends. I'm not complaining, I'm an introvert. I LIKE to stay home by myself, or do things only with my daughter. Once in a while I think it would be nice to have someone to go out with but mostly I'm good with how my life runs. Wait, I DO have RL friends, they just live far away from me.

I exist in 4 worlds and am 'split' as Clare called it, but I think we all do that to some degree. 1) My real world, with coworkers that I am "friendly" with but we don't socialize outside of work who don't really know much about me and my interests. My family lives far away and I have no siblings. Love my parents but we're not the kind to talk every two days, maybe every 2-3 weeks. We're both busy.

2)My bloggy friends (not m/m bloggers) are a bunch of guys and a few girls who I met through some blogs. I have been fortunate to have met 7 of them in person so far and I can be myself and have fun with them although not all of them know about my m/m habit but they know I read "freaky" stuff. I have shared some titles with those who I know are interested.

3) There is a group of working Mom's I met long ago on-line who bonded through the simple fact we are all full-time working Mom's. All ages, all background. We are meeting in June to celebrate a birthday and I can't wait to meet them in person. They don't really know about my m/m interest and my personality with them is more "normal". Total support though. We all chip in to buy baby gifts and one friend was recently diagnosed with terrible cancer and we had people ready to jump on planes to be with her if needed. I know I could count on them 100% no matter what.

4) My friends I've made in the m/m world. Those I can truly be myself I think. I don't have to hold anything back. I've met one person from this world in real life and hope someday to meet some more. When I win the lottery I guess as my m/m friends are much more spread around the globe than the others.

I am fortunate my parents, and my ex in this case (because that can be a problem), don't find it weird that I have on-line friends that I meet in person. They didn't freak when I took my daughter to the US and we stayed at the homes of what were virtual strangers. I've been doing it for so long it's not an issue. My daughter thinks it's normal to go and meet Mom's gay friends in NYC. I talk about them in real-life, I tell her what's going on in their lives, who's dating, who got a new job, they are family friends to us and she doesn't think it odd that I met them on-line. (She's 14.5 by the way.)

I also have a job that will allow me to move overseas once my daughter graduates high school. I have no ties to my town except for the fact that my job is here. Having friends now doesn't mean I'll have any when I'm 70. In some ways for me having friends globally makes more sense. I can settle anywhere in the world and have friends nearby and that's why airplanes and cars were invented.

So I think unless you find yourself really missing more close relationships with people who live near you and you can see in person daily or weekly, I wouldn't sweat it. Enjoy your friends no matter what form they take. (excuse my ramblings - you struck a chord. :-) )
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
Re: My on-line friends count for a lot (bloody long - sorry)
Thanks for sharing that! Rambling is encouraged :)

It's very cool that you have online friends that have become RL people, so to speak. And yes! I would *love* to travel around the globe and visit all my online friends where they live - when I win the lottery, of course. But I hoping to one day see at least one or two of them for real! That must be so much fun.

Sometimes it's more a case of 'daring' than 'being able', I think.

I guess I have introvert tendencies, but I also really need a social life to be happy and move forward. While I love the freedom of living alone and having a lot of time to myself, I do miss seeing more of my closest friends. So yes, it's that ever important balance to look out for. In the end though there's no doubt, good online friends are an awesome and liberating bunch.
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC)
I think online friends do help and are very valuable. Have you ever had an imaginary friend when you were a kid? Online friends are pretty close.

I started a blog on the advice of a friend almost two years ago when I was pretty sick. The people I met online helped me enormously, even though they had no idea that in a way they were therapy for me, and they took my mind off things I didn't want to think about.

I hope that occasionally my posts are funny and make someone think or laugh, which is really all I want to do.
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:09 pm (UTC)
I had my one best friend as a kid, and a lot of imaginary animals!
I like your outlook on blogging. Writing things/thoughts down often work as therapy in itself, and when you can be as open as you can with imaginary/online friends it's even better.
My problem is that I *should* be thinking about some things I don't *want* to be thinking about. I willfully let myself be distracted by the fun here on LJ etc, while I feel bad about not addressing those should's. It's my shortcoming, not that of the online friends.

But as long as we make someone laugh on occasion, it's good.
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:54 pm (UTC)
I'm amazed at the range of dialogue here on the B-day Bash, and it's only been 4 days. New Years raise all manner of internal questions and this certainly is one.

I'd like us to take comfort in our friends where ever we find them. Be pleased the internet has blessed us to reach outside our immediate circle of work, city, state and country to find like-minded souls. Goodness knows how difficult that is.

Friends in real life may move on just as much as those on-line, and as far as the concerns about those with too-full lives at the moment - give them a few years to expand their vision beyond the immediate demands of family. When the nest is empty they will be older, hopefully wiser, and cherish their friendships even more.

All that said, do I feel on-line friends count? You bet. Just like in real life though, there is a difference between a good friend, and an acquaintance.
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
I've been in remiss in reading the previous posts but it's a great experience to be talking to all these new people! That lack of borders is one of the greatest things about internet.

You're right, when those kids have flewn the coop, I think we'll have a blast! ;) And surely before then, too. Offline, online, byline, sideline, it's all workable!

Just like in real life though, there is a difference between a good friend, and an acquaintance.
- Very true!

Your icon gave me such a craving for hot coffee!
I must make some tea - too late for coffee ;D
Jan. 7th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
I think both kinds of friend count, and both are necessary. Having moved to a place where I have very few friends, my online community has been more important these last couple of years. It's been a shock; most of the RL friends I have were people I met through my massage practice, and I don't have that credential in Canada. I don't just miss that part of my identity, I miss the people who were a part of it. I don't have the RL/LJ schism, because my real friends in real life (not just workplace associates) know what I write and know that I'm active online. But I'm lucky in that my job isn't dependent on fitting into some corporate image. I'll probably never be rich (hey, I wouldn't turn down a windfall if a book hits the big-time) but I'd rather have small joys than huge pressures.

As your friends become moms, they'll become absorbed in their kids. That's a given--a baby's a 24/7 job. If you can share in their excitement and enjoy being an unofficial auntie, you'll probably be able to maintain the friendship. If you really don't like kids and can't stand to be around them, you may fall out of touch. But after the first few years of intensive childrearing, your friends will probably find they miss adult conversation, and being able to have lunch with someone who doesn't require assistance in cutting up her food.

Having run across a couple of pathologial cyberliars and an online backstabber or two, I'd say that it's a little more risky; it can take longer online to spot a phony, and caution is always a good idea. On the other hand, ozreison and superhooie were lifesavers when my wife and I arrived with a U-haul on what seemed like the hottest day of summer... and it was a delight to meet shezzawatto and Mr. Watto when they zoomed through Canada last spring. I'd never met them in person and would probably never have met them, in the non-internet age.

As for whether this sort of community is 'real' ... go over to the 'save_dave' community and look what a bunch of strangers accomplished.
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:22 pm (UTC)
It must have been quite a shock for you to move lock, stock and barrel to Canada. However we're really nice people if you give us a chance. :)

Seriously I value both my RL and cyber friends equally because when one isn't there there's always someone else who listens and offers help when you most need it.
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Jan. 7th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
I treasure my online buddies, who are primarily readers and/or authors. They broaden my vistas, make me laugh (oh so important!), provoke thought, allow me to vent, provide support, keep me grounded, and generally enrich my life. I only hope I do the same for them. Moreover, Internet communication requires writing and, often, a certain amount of critical/analytical thinking. Can't sneeze at honing those skills!

Very nice post, Jo -- a "count your blessings" moment. And yes, you can have both. :-)
Jan. 7th, 2010 07:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Don't mind if do have both! ;)

My online friends do those things, and also allow me to babble about stuff that, well... would make me blush if I had to look them in the eye, lol.

A blessing's a blessing, online or off.
Jan. 7th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
For me, Electronic Friends are lifelines
A very thoughtful question that I have pondered too. As I concentrate on trying to establish my pro writing career over the last fifteen months, I've found that it would be easy to become a recluse! I'm really determined and spend an enormous amount of my time working on the writing. I've found that if I didn't have online friends friends, I wouldn't speak to anyone but my husband, and I know, absolutely know that for me this is not a good thing. I need people in my life but have yet to find the appropriate balance between RL and online.

One of my New Year's resolutions is to seek out more people here in north Texas, a red state where I'll have a hard time finding folks who can accept what I do with my life and the convictions I hold. While I work at finding the right balance for me, my remaining (and new) online friends are absolutely essential to my sanity. You bet I count them! Thank God for the internet.
Jan. 7th, 2010 07:51 pm (UTC)
Re: For me, Electronic Friends are lifelines
The internet working at its best! :)
I'm the same, need interaction to be healthy. Good luck with the career and finding new friends in Texas.
Jan. 7th, 2010 10:20 pm (UTC)
Hmmm.... How relevant to my life is this post? In the last year, I struck a friendship, a very deep and fulfilling friendship, with someone on line, and over the holidays, it kind of...disintigrated. Well, I guess it started before that, but the point is, way back in the begining, we talked about RL vs. our online friendship, and she made a good point. However virtual our communication, she is a person, I do - did - talk to her every day, shared secrets and hopes and dreams and disappointments. How much more real does it have to be? When it all fell apart, it sure as hell hurt like real life hurts. Still does. In my book, tears don't lie, so yeah, I'd say friends here are on the have list and not to be taken for granted.
Jan. 7th, 2010 11:48 pm (UTC)
Sad to hear about that friendship. It's a good point. I think basically the internet is a very weird and quite unnatural way for people to interact, and that sometimes screws us over or fools us. We don't see facial expressions or hear the tone of voice, and we usually only have this one, indirect point of contact. No phone, no address... also most people have RL responsibilities that simply must take precedence over the virtual ones.

Those same things can also be very liberating, in that we befriend people we never would have met iRL, we can talk about different things and find shared interests. I wouldn't want to be without online friends, and certainly no one is being taken for granted. It's just that for me, there are so many things online life (amazing as I find it) can't give. It's not a criticism, just a fact.

PS. Online friends will go on the 'have' list because they also give me something that RL cannot. And that's worth celebrating.

Edited at 2010-01-07 11:52 pm (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2010 12:57 am (UTC)
Hi! I think RL and On-line friends occupy different spheres for me. Equally valuable, feeding different parts of my soul.

The thing about on-line friendships is that they manage to push past so many stumbling blocks that are present in RL friendships. As in, you get all of the hangups out of the way and boom, move into the soul sister/brother territory immediately. It's quite fulfilling. Age, looks, habits (e.g., drinking, smoking, partying), circles of aquaintances, families (as you point out) all of these play a role in who we meet and befriend in RL, but they are invisible on-line.

Hey. My partner of eleven years now, we met on an on-line bulletin board (pre-social networking sites), got to know each other, six months later I got up the nerve to meet him in NYC (we both took a train and met in Central Park). Turned out he was real. :)

The thing that makes me crazy about on-line friends, especially anonymous ones, is the uncertainty of what non-presence means. Not so long ago, I was very involved in an on-line community (politics site, basically, that eventually got trolled into oblivion). This guy, he didn't post often, but when he did he was so thoughtful. Anyway, he just sort of...didn't post. Took a while to realize we hadn't heard from him in a while, kind of assumed he'd lost interest. Like, six months later, we found out he'd died in a horrific fire on board a ship in the Persian Gulf. Left a wife and two young children behind. I was devastated -- six months, and I didn't know. People disappear here, and I wonder what has happened. How do you grieve for on-line tragedies, particularly for folks who nobody knows in RL?

P.S. I'm pushing 50 and childless. You don't lose all the friends with kids, and you make new ones, and I don't notice that so much. :) Do worry about old age sometimes though (assuming I make it that far). Will I end up in a nursing home with no visitors ever? *shiver* Can we talk about something else now? :)
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
All wise views!
Now that you mentioned it, I agree about the different spheres for on- and offline friends. The closer the onliners become, the more troublesome they are because you start to truly care about their lives rather than just their online appearance.

How cool that you and your partner met online such a long time ago.
And I couldn't agree more about the online absence. I had one friend who disappeared and nobody seems to know where she went... her account is lifetime so it's just sitting there, but she was going through some tough times emotionally and I'm still thinking about her a year and a half later, wondering. I hate not knowing. How terrible to find out that guy from the comm died!

Maybe we should just live fast enough that we die before the nursing home... *yup, shiver* Let's talk about nekkid guys instead.
Jan. 8th, 2010 11:00 pm (UTC)
Well, what can I add after all that's been said? I think I am a bit more "open" with my online friends because the dynamic is so different. I might be more comfortable saying certain things when I don't have to look that person in the eye, so there is a big disconnect between me and any possible judgment.

Also, we connect over something specific while for RL pals maybe I meet them in a class, or they are a friend of another friend, or whatever, and there is the slow process of revealing interests and compatibilities. Online, conversation is often limited to that one thing, maybe slowly broadening into other parts of our lives. I love my RL friends but my online buddies are special, too. I don't consider them any less "real". I don't know, I've always had them, I mean I was chatting online at ten or so, so it seems kind of normal. Although sometimes I will want to be like, "My pal in Sweden said this hilarious thing!" to my RL friends but then I wonder, if they ask, how do I explain how I know this person?

Interesting essay.
Jan. 10th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks, hon. And I know - exactly! Sometimes it's on the tip of my tongue, like "omg you gotta see my friend's new icon, awesome!" - Who? Oh, just, um, someone from this pervy community I visit... In 2008 there was the idea of an Icecon - a minicon in Iceland, and what the heck would I have said I was doing there? Who were those people in the photos?
But I have a backup excuse for chatting with folks from the US, I can say I met them when travelling. I'll totally use that if I ever manage to met any of yous, too.
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