Do we still need to have a cup of tea in their kitchen and meet a member of their family before we can truly call someone a good friend?

Internet buddy. Online acquaintance. Possible axe murderer. How many put-downs can we use to describe people we interact with but have not met.

How is someone you talk to regularly over email, in a yahoo group, in a MMORG (e.g. World of Warcraft) any different from the conversations you have with work mates in a large organisation?

You don’t see them outside work, you don’t know their friends or relatives, you don’t know if they are feeding you a load of bullshit about their home life or telling you the truth. You “feel” whether it has “the ring of truth” usually based on their likeability and you decide whether to believe them, disbelieve them or to ignore it. Some you “click” with and you chat more to them and in time you become friends.

Isn’t that the same online?

Yes I have an axe to grind today. I’m down. I’m upset. I’m worried. One of the long-standing members of my Warcraft guild has left sometime over the past few weeks. Not just left the guild, but deleted her characters from Warcraft including a Level 85 that she’s had since Warcraft first came out as an MMORG seven years ago.  This character had achievements and reputations that just don’t exist in the game anymore. The player was in the game daily up until New Years.  From what I understand, she was mostly housebound through a car accident a while ago and Warcraft stopped her from going stir crazy. It was a social hangout as well as an intellectual stimulant. Although we are on an US server, she lives in our time zone and she and mum would occasionally be up late talking into the night.  She was closer to mum’s age than mine.

This year she hasn’t been on as much and when I’ve asked she’s just said she’s been resting up for the raids (the guild raids once a week).  But she hasn’t even been doing that the last couple of weeks. I looked further last night and couldn’t find her in the guild roster. With some help this morning I learned how to search all characters and that’s how I learned all of her characters (well those I know how to spell) have been deleted.

Did she have a really big fight with the Guild and quit Warcraft after all those years? Or did the person behind the characters get too sick or die?

The Guild hierarchy aren’t saying.  I’ve asked a few of the co-GMs now and been completely ignored. My Guild is not a hard-core group, but I’m not a serious enough player for the core group to bother with. I don’t have a proper gaming set up (I’m using a laptop and it’s trackpad – no mouse). I don’t know all the cool moves and I haven’t been gaming forever so I don’t have prior raiding experience or pre-release dungeon experience. So the core group pretty much ignore mum and me and we just pootle about on our own and we help any lower characters on their way up to 85 when possible, where they surpass us and keep going 🙂

E was different. Because she had done it all, and possibly because she had difficulties now or possibly because it was always her nature, she liked helping out other characters too.  One night she picked up a Level 3 character on her Dragon (yes she had Vial of Sands) and spent 4 hours taking that little character all over the World showing it beautiful vistas and helping it buy all the vendor-purchasable pets.  That character was one of mum’s new ones but E didn’t know that until part way through. She liked showing new players around and showing them the little places. Little groves and outcrops where you just stand and watch the prairie dogs play or the sun go down at a certain place. Things that the developers put into the game but most gamers are too busy to notice.  E showed mum lots of these places one night and they talked and laughed for hours.

They talked together a fair bit after that late last year and early this year but then E stopped coming on, or we’d just miss her.  It wasn’t personal, we aren’t that big an influence and it’s pretty easy to /ignore someone, which is I’m sure what the Guild GMs are doing to me now for asking a question they don’t want to answer.

Either there’s been a bust-up which they don’t want to admit to and most of them would be feeling pretty terrible. Or she’s possibly died and one of her sons has closed her account, which would have the rest of the core group feeling very upset.  Either way they have no interest in talking to an outsider.

Mum’s been worried about E for over a week but only told me last night. I haven’t told mum yet that E the character, and in fact all her characters are gone / deleted.  E the person I have no idea.

Is mum’s worrying about E not friendship?

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7 Responses to Friendship

  1. Sisu says:

    I have been playing Wizard101 since shortly after it launched, and yes, in game and online friends are REAL friends. If I play an hour or two a night, that is far more time than I spend with my more local friends when I add it up. I hope E is alright. Is there a possibility she was hacked? I know at one time that was a huge problem with WoW, and the hackers would often delete the accounts afterwards out of spite.
    No, you and your mum have every right to be concerned, I don’t find it odd at all. My best ‘in game’ friend disappeared for almost a year, then came back one night just to tell me she wasn’t going to play anymore until new content came out. I worried for that whole year, every time I played, wondering if she was OK (she was also an older player). She never did come back, and I still miss her. Friendship resides in the heart. If your heart counts someone a friend, it matters not how you found them, only that they found a spot in your heart for that friendship to grow.

  2. I actually had quite a heated ‘discussion’ with a member of our writing group that stated that ‘without doubt’ not only were online friends not ‘real’ friends, but that long distance friends were similarly ‘non-friends’. She argued (quite vehemently) that ‘you sit down over a cuppa with someone, it isn’t true friendship.’

    Well, that’s bunkum (and it’s a long time since I used that word). Through Mel (who is without any shadow of doubt a REAL long distance friend, I’ve formed what I deem are friendships with stitchers all over the world. Most of whom I will never meet. We share common loves (stitching) and, although it may sound pathetic to admit this, received more birthday wishes and gifts than from local friends and families.

    I dearly hope E is OK and I hope you find a way to find out. Life is too short not to care for and be cared for by as many people as possible.


  3. tiffstitch says:

    Definitely E sounds like a good friend and I hope that she’s okay. I think I’d go crazy without online friends, my family lives over 9 hours (or more depending on which members) away so I never see them and really, work friends are for work, you don’t necessarily want to hang out with them all the time. I’ve had a online friend group for years upon years now and I would feel lost without them. To make an even stronger point, my DH started as an online friend 14 years ago, and we’ve been together for over 13 years. Hope you hear something soon Mel!

  4. Karen R in GA says:

    That’s just like some of the folks that have just vanished from Yahoo/Multiply – Penny B., Kat. Did they just stop blogging and/or stitching, or are they actually “gone”? I don’t suppose I’ll ever know (I think we did discover that Kat had actually passed? But Penny B?). I miss them, as I would miss any of my other friends, internet or live in person, whom I talk to, if not daily, then at least weekly. Just because I haven’t seen them face to face – YET – doesn’t mean I don’t have anything vested in them, and vice versa. So many people I have met online have enriched my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe…

    I hope you and Denise figure out what’s become of E, because I know you’ll continue to wonder…

  5. Susan Simko says:

    I think internet friends are very much akin to the pen pals people used to have in the nineteenth and twentieth century. I know that two of my closest friends in the world are people I originally met online and then about 7 years in, one of them and I decided to meet up at a science fiction con. In some ways, it was pretty strange that we knew each other intimately but had no idea what the other looked like. (This was pre-web, bitnet email days.) Then, her and I met up with the other one at another con where we spent the entire con playing “ships passing in the night”, leaving notes on bulletin boards, never knowing if the person you saw just walking away was her. (We finally set up a breakfast appointment and got to meet face to face on the last day.) Now, the three of us get together for a week every summer at my house. 🙂

    We also had another friend on the same listserv we met on that no one on the list ever met. Deitmar was a quadriplegic and an incredible writer who lived through his computer. We were “fortunate” in that his son recognized this such that when Deitmar passed unexpectedly, he notified us. This was probably 15 years ago and to this day I and other friends still have his name and email address in our address books.

    So, yeah, friends made online are no less valid than those we make in RealLife(tm). (One friend of mine actually has it in his will to notify those ‘net friends close to him if something should happen to him. I think that’s a great idea!) In fact, sometimes I think we can be even closer to them because it’s often easier saying things in email that are too hard to say face to face. I think they can function almost as a therapist sometimes as you can bounce things off of them and their knowledge of the situation is only from your perspective and how it affects you.

    The internet also allows us to expand our boundary for friends. I’m an IT geek who loves to read but for years, everyone that met me face to face, never saw past the way I looked. I was able to meet kindred spirits on the web via special interest groups like listservs. The one on horror in literature and film where I met Mildred and Kate is still going and we’ve been members for almost 25 years! Others, like the various stitching groups I belong to, I have also met treasured friends some who I have also had the privilege of meeting face to face. Even without meeting the rest in person, this does not invalidate the way I feel about them. If I think they’re friends and they think we’re friends, then we ARE friends. The rest of the world be damned if they don’t want to accept it.

    I know I am beginning to look forward to our interactions Mel as I feel in many ways, we have a lot in common and am looking forward to developing a friendship with you as time goes – even though I’m on the east coast of the US and you’re in Australia. (I will add it’s on my list of places I want to visit and has been for a very long time. 🙂 ) I hope you find out what happened to E. Not knowing one way or another is often harder than getting the worst news possible. At least then you can mourn and get on with life instead of always wondering.

  6. Rae Kennon says:

    I agree with the others. On line friendships are based on a different dynamic but none the less real. As I read the other comments I thought a lot about my coworkers. I spend a lot of time on the phone along with sending and receiving emails all day. I have established some really strong and close friendships with these people that I rarely if ever see, and to be honest they don’t get on my nerves nearly as much as the ones I actually have to share space with.
    Maybe since the “on line” friends we have don’t have to out up with our quirks like the ones we live and work with do, or us theirs it makes the friendship easier to grow. Also since our time is mush more limited with them we take a better effort to be a better friend.
    Even though we have never met face to face or talked on the phone, and to be honest may never will, I consider you to be my friend.

  7. Laura says:

    In some ways, my online buddies know more about me than my ‘real life’ buddies. I think it’s often easier to confide online. You can’t see me sitting at home blubbering away. I can type and tell you I am, but I don’t have to be embarrassed about the mess I am while I’m crying. I have a group of friends I’ve been chatting with online at a set time every week for more than 15 years. If I miss the chat, I really feel like I’ve missed out for the week. I’m grumpy and irritable. I miss my friends!

    I hope you find out what’s happened to E and that everything is okay.

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