Tag Archives: internet

Coffee is Hospitality: The Art of Friendship on the Internet

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to mention it on my blog, but last Friday, the Drabblecast featured one of my stories on Episode# 299 – “The Revelations of Morgan Stern”. For those of you who are regular readers, it was my story Dear John, a little tale framed around themes of loss and hospitality. The production of my story absolutely blew me away, and I was especially moved to have this one picked because of the story behind it, which you can read about in the original post.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been blown away by a series of loosely connected events that have left me moved and humbled by the kindness, thoughtfulness, and love of people I’ve only ever met online. It took me by surprise; to a degree I’ve always carried the unspoken assumption that there’s a clear and obvious distinction between the people you deal with face-to-face and those you deal with on the internet. As if the one is more “real” or counts for more than the other.

And while nothing will ever replace my friends and family, I think I’m wrong to undervalue the extended network of friendships made possible through the power of technology. We’re something like pen pals, many of us separated by half the world, and yet brought together by common interests. We celebrate each other’s triumphs. We feel one another’s pain. And sometimes we push each other to levels of courage that would be impossible normally.

After all, hospitality is coffee. Sometimes you invite people into your home and share a cup together. But other times, you invite them in from afar. You – yes, you – have joined me in my living room on many an evening to swap stories and jokes over a beer. Other times, we’ve sat at the kitchen table while I poured out my frustrations, fears, and sadness. Right now, we’re sitting in the student lounge together at my college as I finally recognize what a good friend you’ve been to me all along.

I’ve been lucky enough to go for a run with those of you involved in the production of the podcasts I listen to. Together we braved the heat, rain, and cold, set records, jumped over snakes, waved to neighbors, high-fived children, and snarked at catcallers and other rude folks.

All of this was in my head when I listened to a recent metacast from the folks at Escape Artists (behind the podcast magazines Escape Pod, Podcastle, and Pseudopod). The gist is that these podcasts are endangered species because of high readership but low support. You can read a partial transcript here and a summary here.

Coffee is hospitality. We mark our friendships through such rituals, through a mutual give-and-take where we loan support when the other needs it most. Sometimes this support is emotional. You’re both broke, and the best you can do is commiserate. Other times, you have the luxury of being able to extend a hand when needed.

I think the biggest difference between internet friends my face-to-face friends is that I’ve always found it easy and natural to practice hospitality towards people who are physically there. Online, there’s just enough distance that you forget to offer the coffee. You forget that you can. I mean, I can’t pour caffeine into my keyboard and expect it to come out on your end, but there are other ways of extending hospitality all the same.

Anyway, I’m changing that. Since I’m not completely broke, I’ve decided to repay both Escape Artists and the Drabblecast for their gift of friendship by becoming one of their paid subscribers. It’s the financial equivalent of getting together and buying them coffee once a month. I can most certainly do that.

If you’re also a fan of these shows, I’d encourage you to do the same if you’re able. If you’re not one of their fans, why not give them a listen? You might find something worthwhile, as I did.

How about you guys? How do you view your internet friends versus the ones you meet face-to-face? Who do you like to support around the blogosphere and interwebs?

Motley Microfiction: Truth in Avatar-zing

They met on the forum as Stasis17 and ScaryBearyGurl. In time, they found common ground: their corporate wage-slave jobs, their bad luck with relationships, an irrational proclivity for Nic Cage movies.

Let’s meet, ScaryBearyGurl wrote one day. I’m Kiley.

Name’s Bruce, he replied. I hope you’re not disappointed. I haven’t been completely honest with you. His tour in Iraq, he explained, had taken both legs.

The next day, she spotted his wheelchair in the coffee shop. He was handsome. “Bruce,” she called, but when he saw her, he screamed.

Kiley looked exactly like her avatar: a monstrous zombie Care Bear.


Scary bear wear
And sometimes, you make friends with one very scary bear. (Photo credit: wili_hybrid)

I’m crawling out of study-hibernation this afternoon to bring you this little story, my own send-up to that wonderful and strange phenomenon I like to call “internet friendships”.

The first real friendships I formed with people on the ‘net came about during my MMO phase years and years ago. I remember fondly the novelty of talking with people from around the world and gradually to share in each other’s daily struggles and triumphs, all mediated through a common hobby. While internet friends will never replace face-to-face friendships, this special category of relationship made possible through technological advances is still worth celebrating.

The thing I love most about the friends I’ve made on the internet is how geographical location doesn’t matter. As a person who’s moved quite a bit in my short life, it’s amazing to live in an age where distance doesn’t have to be a factor anymore. If you move lots, you don’t have to say goodbye to everyone. When you arrive in a new town, your social circle may even precede you.

How about you? Do you enjoy friendships with people you meet online? Have any of ’em resembled their avatars in unfortunate ways?