This past weekend we had a death in the family after what seemed like a brief illness, and as such things generally do it caused me to do a little introspective thinking. You know, the usual type of “what is life about” and “why do these things happen” thoughts, but also more about where I am in my life. I’m generally happy with the way things have turned out, so it’s not a mid-life crisis situation, but rather an interesting observation about myself.
I have a few friends that I have had for years, a few that I have worked with and remain in-touch with, and a bunch of people I have fallen out of touch with but still consider to be my friends. Interestingly, though, I have very little on-line contact with them aside from emails or occasional IMs.
Then I look at my online activities. I have a small group of people I talk with regularly, maybe a dozen in that group, and have talked to them for nearly ten years. I have met most of them in-person only once ot twice, and some of them I have never met but still consider them to be good friends. Then there is another group of people I met through Metafilter, that are part of a Steamgroup I do the majority of my TF2/L4D gaming with. I also have friends from WoW, old guildmates, current guildmates, and a couple of people I know from work/friends/whatever that happen to play WoW too. On Steam I have something like 111 friends, from various places and some overlap from the above groups. Facebook? A smorgasbord of family, friends, co-workers (former and current), old classmates, and an assortment of other people who fail to fit into most categories.
So taking into consideration the overlaps across my various online personas I have somewhere around 250 “friends”, in quotes because really how many of them would qualify. So following with the morbid topic that began this thought process, I began to wonder how many of them would I be really affected by if they suddenly shuffled off this mortal coil? How many of them would care much more than maybe a quick forum post somewhere? No, not being morose or depressed, just a mental exercise.
What I found was interesting, that among my online-only friends, there are a surprising number of people that I considered closer friends than some of the people I have actually met and know/knew personally. It’s not a knock on those people, it’s just the way I consider the relationships I have made over the years doing things online, especially the number of those people who I knew solely through the playing of computer games with. My closest friends in high school? I only really keep in touch with one of them, and my two closest friends I haven’t spoken to in years. College buddies? Over a decade. People I played WoW with in an old guild a few years ago? I get IMs from on occasion. Bandmates from back when I played actively? Only one I keep in sporadic touch with, not including my oldest and probably best friend.
The point of all this? Not a lot, but I found it interesting the way various friendships and interpersonal relationships have developed over the years. Granted, a number of changes in my life have helped that along, like getting married, having kids, changing careers and going into software development, and not hanging out in bars regularly. But I somehow doubt my case is unique. I’m not sure how I feel about that either. I doubt people my age fit the same mold, but as you go down the age levels, I’m sure it’s more and more common. For good or for ill.