The downside to internet based friendships

Like many people with a mental health condition, I isolate myself. As a result, I have only two ‘real life’ friends, whom I see maybe once per month or so. However, when it comes to the internet I have a whole plethora of friends just a click of a mouse away. These are the people who are around when I can’t sleep at 4am. The ones who I can tell my deepest darkest secrets, whilst hiding behind the anonymity of a computer screen.

Are they real friends? We watch tv shows together. We bitch about our family. We fall out and make up again frequently. We have a drink together, albeit in different houses or even different time zones. We miss each other if a few days pass with no contact. We’re often the first people we want to tell when something big happens in our lives. But for the most part we don’t know each other’s address or phone number. We don’t know what each other looks like or even each other’s real name.

An internet friendship can be transient. If someone annoys me I can block them on my msn and forget about them. I can easily find another new best friend by joining a different forum or chat room. I can change my username and start again. I don’t have to worry about that embarrassing moment when I bump into them in town. I recently discovered that someone I talk to in a forum lives just round the corner from my house. It made me shudder. Too close! But we could still pass each other in the street and be none the wiser.

This week, the distant nature of these friendships has been brought home to me. I speak to E almost every day without fail. We share the same sense of humour. We both struggle with longstanding mental illnesses. I look forward to seeing her each night when I log on to msn. She has supported me through so much and I’d like to think I’ve done the same for her in some small way. This coming weekend we are due to meet up for the first time in ‘real life’ when we both attend the agm for Rethink.

But E hasn’t been online since last weekend. This has never happened before. The last I heard she had suffered a major blip and was on hourly phone calls from her crisis team. She has since fallen off the radar. The last conversation we had has me very worried. I’m hoping she’s in hospital. I’m dreading that she may be dead, perhaps not even yet discovered. As a borderline, I know I have a tendency to catastrophise, but I can’t help but think the worst. Perhaps though she is just nervous about meeting in person and has shut herself off from me. I’ve done the same myself in the past. But she hasn’t been on any of her usual forums or spoken to any of her other friends. I can’t phone her. I don’t have her number. I can only keep my fingers crossed that she will turn up tomorrow as planned. If she doesn’t I may never know what has happened to my friend.

And yes, she is a friend. It doesn’t matter what format we use to talk to each other. I miss her. I worry about her. I desperately want to help her. E, mate. If you’re reading this, just let me know you’re ok. xx


6 Responses to “The downside to internet based friendships”

  1. Madsadgirl Says:

    I know the feeling well. There are several bloggers who I worry about when they don’t write a post for a while. Just because they are ‘virtual’ friends doesn’t make the friendship any less meaningful.

    I, too, have recently met an internet friend in the flesh, and it turned out to be an experience that I feel we both gained from. I hope that E is there tomorrow and that your worst fears can be assuaged.

  2. Lola Snow Says:

    Sorry to hear that Bip, that must be a horrible feeling. I can’t really say more than that, other than good on you for posting about it, rather than freaking out alone.
    Have my fingers crossed that tomorrow goes as planned

    Lola x

  3. Alison Says:

    I met a great friend through the net… J, she bought some items off me on eBay in 2003 and we have remained close friends for a long time… holidays, sleep overs although saying that I’ve not seen her since May as she’s suffering with her back now and I’ve not found the time to visit!

    I hope E will be okay, I can fully understand your concern, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you x

  4. bippidee Says:

    she’s ok, if going through a major blip. I had a fab day at the conference and met some lovely people. They gave us cloth bags with Rethink Severe Mental Illness in massive letters on them. Got some funny looks at the train station lol.

  5. AnotherElaine Says:

    It was the birthday of my “best” friend on Wednesday… I spent much of that day crying my eyes out… cos, you see, she died in April, on the 3rd of April, in fact. H. and I have been internet friends for 2 (?) years, we met, through a support website because we were going through the same surgical procedures ( NHS – “you’ve got cancer, you need to be chopped up!!) , I was the lucky one -me – no cancer; NHS was wrong, H. very bad cancer which ultimately caused her death. So, we “chatted” every day, communicated online and through texts right to the end, to within hours of her death……..
    and yet, I never met her, never saw a photo of her, never heard her voice even…. and I miss her…very much… And. so many regrets…why didn’t we arrange to meet…? Too late now…

  6. Alison Says:

    I was wondering today how your dad is doing… sorry if I am being nosy but I am feeling a little lost today and you and your dad popped into my thoughts.


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