Friday, January 16, 2015

What Makes a Friend?



Friends used to be people you grew up with or worked with or lived next door to, and of course, they still are. But friends are now also people who live across the country from you whom you never worked with or went to school with or even physically met. The internet has changed our lives in that way, connecting us closely to people we never would have met in the old days.

Some of my closest friends are people I only have a chance to see once a year or so at a national conference. Still, we are in touch all year long, and we give each other all kinds of support and real old-fashioned, loyal friendship through the internet. Some of my good friends are people I have never had the chance to meet in the flesh. We’ve done projects together, set up funds for good causes together, carried each other’s sadness during hard times, and confided secrets to each other, but our hands have never actually touched.

I think this is one of the big changes that the internet brought us—this kind of intimacy with someone  we may never have the chance to meet physically. Yet is it so strange? People are marrying people they meet online and building successful marriages and families with them, so why wouldn’t we build strong, important friendships that way also.

I’ve been thinking about this because a dear friend (whom I’ve never physically met) is going through a tough time as her husband’s cancer has come back and she has her own severe physical health issues. We have been there for each other through deaths, surgeries, disability, and various cancers. She has certainly been there for me, and I am trying to be there for her. Given her situation and mine, we may never actually meet in person, though we have spoken by phone, as well as Facebook, Twitter, and emails.

I suddenly find myself working on an anthology of poetry for a great cause with a friend I’ve never met in the flesh, although we laugh about the many things we have in common and wonder if we’re sisters somehow separated—couldn’t be twins because I’m much older. Next month, I’m going to stay with a friend whom I have met in person at a conference after making our acquaintance by the internet—and keeping in touch the same way. We’ve become closer and closer friends, even though we see each other once a year or less often.

Each of these three women are people I count as dear friends, closer than many people who live near me and whom I see often. They are heart friends. I have some deep heart friends whom I’ve known for many decades and see often, and then I have these deep heart friends whom I almost never see. Neither category of heart friend is closer or more valued than the other. It’s rare enough to make that kind of connection so I value it wherever I find it.

So here’s to good, close friends, whether we’ve known them forever and see them often or we’ve only met online. A sympathetic soul and a heart connection are what matter when it comes to friendship, after all.

Do you have heart friends whom you’ve never or seldom seen in the flesh? How do you think the internet is changing friendship?


Linda Rodriguez’s third novel featuring Cherokee detective Skeet Bannion, Every Hidden Fear, was a selection of the Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and received a 2014 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award. Her second Skeet mystery, Every Broken Trust, was a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club and a finalist for the Premio Aztlan, took 2nd Place in the International Latino Book Award, and was selected for Latino Books into Movies. Her first Skeet novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, International Latino Book Award Honorable Mention, and was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick.

Her short story, “The Good Neighbor,” which appeared in Kansas City Noir (Akashic Books), has been optioned for film. For her books of poetry, Skin Hunger and Heart’s Migration, Rodriguez received numerous awards and fellowship, including the Thorpe Menn Award for literary excellence, the Midwest Voices and Visions Award, the Elvira Cordero Cisneros Award, the 2011 ArtsKC Fund Inspiration Award, and Ragdale and Macondo fellowships. She is chair of the AWP Indigenous/Aboriginal American Writers Caucus, immediate past president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime, founding board member of Latino Writers Collective and The Writers Place, and a member of Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers. Find her at http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com.
 

15 comments:

  1. Wonderful blog today. I can really relate . . .

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  2. "Heart friends" is a perfect description, and I agree with you about the importance of these relationships. A mutual friend has helped me through dark spots, as have others, and celebrating the love and laughter makes good times better. Hugs! <3

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  3. Thank you, Pam. I think most of us who are active online have close friends that way.

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  4. Mary, it was the best phrase I could come up with. I'm so glad you've had your heart friends to help you. I know I consider you a friend I've made online, though we've never met yet.

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  5. Beautiful thoughts, Linda. Very true for those in the writer world of solitary make believe.

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  6. Thanks, Georgia! I know people who live solitary lives for other reasons for whom the internet is a lifeline, as well. I also know writers, like Hank Phillippi Ryan, who are always touring, plus have a day job with other people, and still make close friends online.

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  7. I have tons of online writer friends, dear friends, whom I've met once or twice, some of them never. But we're in contact almost daily. I think being a writer makes this more probable since we're scarce on the ground, but thick in certain cyber areas. Great post.

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  8. Thanks, Kaye. I think you may have something there, Kaye. As writers, we're on the computer all the time and often online to research and promote our work. So we're bound to meet people there and make friends.

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  9. As I have gotten older, I have become less social, more in need of quiet, alone time. The internet gives me a way to stay in touch with the larger world while honouring my own needs. I know that there has been many a times when online friends have given me the support and care that I need, often much faster than I could have ever gotten that care if I had been seeking it in person.
    The world has changed a lot in the last couple of decades, the friends I have online are a good change.

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  10. I keep touch with my writing group and other writers online. And I've reconnected with my cousins online. For really personal dilemmas, I prefer in person or on the telephone. And I have been inspired by following you online, Linda

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  11. Gaylin, I think that's why the internet works so well for writers. We spend our days--certainly our writing time--alone, and a quick pop over to Facebook or Twitter is similar to the water-cooler gatherings offices used to have. Online communities are preferred by introverts often, as well, because they can control them so easily, and if the interaction gets to intense or feels too intrusive, they can disconnect for a while. That's not so easy to do in person at a party or something similar and is one reason why introverts dislike them. I'm glad you've found the right balance to honor your own needs.

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  12. Thank you, Faith. You yourself have inspired a lot of us as you have faced your own battles with such humor and courage.

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  13. Aw, Hank, you're the best! You are definitely one of those friends made online, then met at conferences, who's become a dear heart friend. But then, everyone loves you. xoxoxo

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