the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Writing About the Virtual Life

Imagine that I had a disagreement with a real-life friend this afternoon. It became heated, and we cursed each other out.  Later, my friend apologized, explaining that he was going through some tough times.   We hugged.  That night, I wrote a post about it, detailing my emotional state about the experience, and published it on my blog.

The next day, you read the post. What is your reaction? Well, it depends on how well it was written.  But you will probably understand it in the context of the age-old narrative tradition.  Incident. Conflict. Drama. Resolution.

Now imagine, this same disagreement occurred with a friend who I only know online.   I write a post about it, detailing my emotional state during the heated exchange.

How would you react to this?  I think you would be angry at me for acting unprofessional, for betraying the trust of the internet, even if I kept his identity as anonymous.  We do not write about each other.   That is the domain of trolls.   We only discuss our writing and our careerism.   Our feelings of anger, love, jealousy, frustration with each other are off-limits.  It is not our fear of writing about our children that caused us to run from our personal blogs.  It is our fear of writing honestly about each other.   We don’t know how.

Today I asked on Facebook the same question I’ve been asking for years, “Is all this virtual stuff — the connection, the emotions, the friendships — real? And the answer was a resounding, YES.

OK, so maybe it is.  Yes we are friends.  Yes, we have the same emotional and human reactions to each other than we would have with friends in the physical world.   Frequently, it is even MORE intense.   Yet, we should never mention it.    So we get no interesting stories from our virtual world, even if we are online ten hours a day.   And as writers, stories are our life blood.  So, until we figure out a way to tell stories about our virtual experiences, we will view it is as inferior to the physical world.   The real world is a place where stories are thrust onto us by just walking out the door.  No one wants to hear a story about the comment section of Facebook.  Maybe in the future.   But not yet.

9 Comments

  1. kenju

    Others may view it as inferior, but I know otherwise. I have been fortunate to meet a goodly number of the people whose blogs I have been reading for years, but there is a larger group of bloggers whom I have not had the good fortune to meet (yet.) I must maintain that my interactions on Facebook and elsewhere with these people are as real and as valuable and as to me as those I have on a face to face basis.

  2. Neil

    I suppose I was trying to play devil’s advocate in a new way, and say that we get no good stories from being online. It’s missing that element.

  3. Neil

    as I just wrote on facebook — Now that I think about it, maybe there have been some books that were well-written about the online life…. showing emails exchanged…. IM messages… I’m sure that is going to become more popular as time goes on…. much like there were novels consisting of letters being sent back and forth. Like I could write a whole novel based on emails with Juli. But would you read a novel consisting of Facebook comments?

  4. Marcy

    I think the reaction to the post-fight/resolution blog post would have much more to do with how you speak of the other person (are you painting them as unreasonable for disagreeing with you, venting about how crappy they were towards you, or writing from a place of friendship?) than whether you know the person online or off. But that’s my sense from how I would react… don’t know how it tends to work in some online circles. I don’t get the sense that online friendships are supposed to be hush-hush, or haven’t seen that in action. I’ve seen many people talk on their blogs and twitter about meeting people, or their twitter best friend, or how they made friends online and then met them in person, etc…and all the stories and adventures that go on from there.

  5. Sarah Gilbert

    I have a short story called, ‘the relationship is negotiated via facebook message.’ I’m still editing it, but I intend to include check-ins and ‘Rachel liked Jenny’s status’ and such intertextually. and of course Facebook comments.

    Perhaps the other question you’re asking is, how sensitive are Internet friends to our emotional journey with them (when revealed on our blogs)? Which is kind of different. Not invalid, but different 🙂

  6. Kim Tracy Prince

    I suppose I don’t count. You are one of the very first people I met who had a blog, so you were a person before a blogger. But our relationship has been 99.5% online, so it sort of qualifies.

    Anyway I don’t think it’s an issue of inferiority or superiority – just…different. I am stung or elated by things I read and write to friends inside the computer just as much as those I interact with IRL. I think it might be different for every person.

    • Neil

      Kim, we had an IM conversation last week. Do you think it would be appropriate if I wrote a blog post saying I had a IM conversation with an unnamed blogging friend with details of the event. Or explicitly wrote, talked with Kim today!

  7. Sarah Piazza

    I dunno. I’ve written about other bloggers. Not negatively – but still…

  8. Noel

    Happy birthday to you and (more impressively) your blog

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