I had a discussion with one of my family recently about friendships. They contended that the people I think of as supporters AND friends from the groups I belong to are not friends in fact but someone I don't even know who could be pretending to be anyone eg on Facebook, WV, Strokenet etc. I have never thought about whether these friendships were real in the way my every day encounters are, just that we are friends because we like and support each other.
In a way this made me question my definition of friendship. What do others think?
I guess it really comes down to your definition of friendship. The people I have met here and in my grief group are now family/friends. We will forever be connected. They say there is a season for everything and some friendships are for shorter time periods. I do not believe it makes anyone any less of a friend. Friends love and support one another. Even though we may take different paths and part ways there is always a special place in my heart for them. Think of some of the friends we had while growing up and due to circumstances we no longer have contact with. There is still that special place for them and at times we wonder how their life has turned out. Due to my moving coast to coast I have numerous friends and even though we are not in physical contact we can pick up a phone and it's like we just saw each other.
Dependent upon the type of group you join would depend on the type of friendship. WV has given me some friends who even though we have never met still support one another. Phone calls and emails do take place and we know we will always be there for one another. The grief group I had joined and now only have email contact with due to my recent move are considered family. We have shared many tears over our loss and will always be joined. Some of these friendships are as "real" as you can get. The deep emotions of losing someone you love cannot be faked. It was with love and support which was freely given our friendship grew. Very few people are left into the darkest areas of our souls at the worst time of our lives. So these are very real friendships that will last a life time and beyond.
That's a really good question only1sue. I see this as a friendship of sorts, that we are all here through the common thread of being Widows/Widowers. If it weren't for that fact we wouldn't even be here, and still in our usual life we had before we had our spouse die. I don't do any other social media like FB etc., but i am a member at a couple of other online forums that don't involve being a widow. Where i have other cyber friends, or people that claim to be that anyway. I know this site is unique in that people here do actually meet in RL at the camps etc.
I agree with your family member that we do have to excercise a certain amount of caution online, because as you mention some people aren't who they really claim to be. But that can happen in RL too.
I guess it really is just a matter of how we feel about this kind of thing individually. We most certainly do feel as if we have cyber friends when we connect with someone online and have things in common with them to discuss.
The only difference with cyber friends is we don't usually interact with them as we do our RL friends by meeting up with them and sharing a RL connection, as in having them in our life and close by to do things with.
I had to question my definition of friendship during my husband's long cancer battle. I was amazed at the number of 'close' friends who just disappeared. Poof! And my siblings were all back east and not available for support.
I would never have guessed that I could develop strong friendships online, but I have. There are a few that I met online here in WV that I would definitely consider very good friends. We were all here early on when the site was just getting started and we were all new in our grief. It's easier for many of us to share our true feelings online rather than in person - so we forged trusting relationships. I met one in person at Camp a few months later and we have seen each other a few other times when we scheduled weekend visits (and I just attended her wedding last weekend). I met others at a later Camp and yet another just last December when she flew in from Calgary and I drove in from Vegas to do Disneyland (after 2+ years of just emails, IMs and phone calls). I've met many at the Camp Widow events who I just know from online and only see when/if they come back to Camp. And I consider them friends.
I've developed online friendships with others I met in a cancer support group, and we have continued our friendships on FB after losing our loved ones. Most I've never met and probably never will - but I consider them my friends. I've also made online friends through Brave Girls Club as we take online classes together. Some I've later met at a Brave Girl Camp or Retreat.
I value these friendships, and while I'm sorry I only encountered them due to the loss of my husband, I am grateful that I live in an era where this is possible. I often feel very alone in my real life and these online friendships are treasured.
Caution concerning online friendships is a requirement. Yes, we do authenticate the widowed status of everyone who applies to join us here in WV - but just because someone is widowed doesn't necessarily mean they are a good person. So if you're online and someone you've not exchanged comments with in a group or discussion contacts you and asks for your personal email address or to friend them on FB so you can chat privately ... that is a definite RED FLAG. Also, if you're in the WV chat room and someone tries to pull you into a private chat without ever commenting in the main room ... RED FLAG. Or if anyone asks you for $$. Let us know if any of this occurs so we can handle it.
I have gotten together with some of the WV people in my area and found them to be just who I thought they were on the board (not that I cannot make a mistake). I have been on fibro boards for fifteen years and met about ten people on that board. They were there wholeheartedly through Jud's whole illness and death. I also have a local board here and they have been wonderful.
I am not here much but I check in every once in awhile. Monday is the second anniversary of Jud's death. Last week his spiritual/medical book collection was taken off to a special meditation room in the hospital in his honor. It is a rough time.
My deepest disappointment is my very best friend for fifty-five years. She totally copped out on me. It was a disaster and a second grief. I am seeking some closure. She lives two doors down from me and it is right in my face, though I don't care as much as I used to.
I am so grateful for online friends. They are real
I went to a wedding in England in July this year where the mother of the groom who invited me was a friend from Strokenet, a stroke support site in the USA I have been on for ten years. At first I did wonder if all of the people on there were "real". But having them write comments on my posts and my blogs and reading their posts and blogs I got to know some of them really well. Ann and I also emailed each other and talked for the last five years or so on Facebook. When we met it was as if we were old friends and we just continued the same conversation we have been having for many years all the time we were together. It is an amazing experience meeting someone you know so well in cyberspace actually face to face in real life.
After my wife had her brain injury, I got involved with a brain injury chat room. That was in 1993. even after my wife died in 2005, I have kept in contact with one of the survivors.
One of the people in that room told me about a grief recovery site that I became very active in. I had a lot of friends there and even met some of them.
One of the widows I found to be a very caring person, and we found out we lived 40 miles apart. I had previously met some of the people in the brain injury chat room, so I suggested we met for lunch to put a face to a name. That was may 2006, well one thing led to another, and we were married on the island of Santorini in November 2007.
At our age we cannot have long engagements.