you are not imaginary

YelloCello has some interesting comments about anonymity and blogging, including:
This is a community of molecules — few of us really responsible to or a part of each other’s lives. Okay, let me amend that: What I read on strangers' sites does become a part of my life, in an imaginary, and not insignificant, sense. Because I am affected by the choices and observations of others. And, naturally, I begin to care about them and their lives. But blogging, and especially academic-world blogging, is necessarily a masked ball. (I dislike that hackneyed metaphor, but it applies here.) In real life, those dearest to me will be the keepers of my history, and I the keepers of theirs. In blog life, there’s freedom in forgetfulness.

In part, I read her discussion as questioning what kinds of community are available or possible when some are anonymous and some are known -- or when those knowledges are unevenly distributed. (For instance, one regular reader of my blog is a friend IRL but she's careful to respect my wish for pseudonymity in this space.)

For me, just because I think of individuals by their blog-name rather than by the traditional First Name Last Name we use in this culture, doesn't really change what I think of them. Over time, in reading someone's blog, I develop an idea of who they are -- their interests, preferences, and sense of humor. Sure, I might have different ideas about you if I met you F2F, but then again, my assumptions or preconceptions based on physical appearance, age, etc etc could easily prevent me from ever finding out some of those things that are revealed on a blog.

A lot of my Real Life friendships are largely virtual too -- people from college and graduate school who I'm still in touch with, for instance. Phone, email, maybe dinner at a conference once every few years or a long weekend visit. Some of those relationships change or diminish with time; others don't. My best friend and I talk every week on the phone, and have done so for years. It's great when we can see each other and go to a movie or something -- but a lot of friendship is taking the time to connect and communicate.

Now, blogging isn't exactly friendship (or not necessarily, or not always) -- but for me a lot of the same things hold true. Communication makes community. And since I'm just a big nerd underneath the surface, communicating via keyboard suits me just fine.

There's a wonderful novel by Sylvia Brownrigg called The Metaphysical Touch. It's one of the few novels I know that adequately captures both the richness and complications of relationships, both virtual and otherwise. It's a long novel but really engrossing -- perfect if you've got some summer vacationing left . . .