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The Coals of Friendship

Once upon a time I had the privilege of hosting a very dynamic online discussion board.  The people who ended up gathering there were both perceptive and enthusiastic, and in time some of us became good friends, our e-mails gradually switching from the topic at hand to the intricacies of our personal lives.

Four years after the heyday of this online community, I still have close friendships with people who congregated there. We don't e-mail as often as we used to, granted, but when we do connect, it's like an ashed-over campfire that has suddenly rekindled into flame. The heat was there all along, waiting for a chance breath of wind to ignite it.

These are people whose opinions and analytical proclivities I know intimately, whose personal essences, at some level, I know as I know my own family's, friends whose children I think about, whose personal lives and personal tragedies I've been let into. Some of these friends I've met in person, others only in spirit. We exchange good links or funny stories or birthday cards or Christmas presents. We've debated together, explored together, written and read, laughed, shared condolences.

Most people--those who don't inhabit online spaces--don't believe in the possibility of 'real friendships' evolving from message board exchanges between people known only by short, self-chosen screen names. Even dedicated webbies know how fleeting online interpersonal connections can turn out to be. So I count myself fortunate to be part of a chain whose links have continued to hold long after the circumstances that brought us together have faded into the past. How amazing and utterly cool, after all, to have found each other, specks as we are in the vastness of cyberspace, and to have germinated into something greater than the sum of our parts.

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