Is there anything more unusual, or indeed as unlikely as an internet friendship? I prefer to think of the phenomena as being a classic Claytons situation. If you are wondering what I’m wittering on about, bear with me.
Years ago, in the nineteen-seventies, a southern hemisphere company whose name totally escapes me now, marketed a non-alcoholic beverage resembling bottled whisky in Australia and New Zealand, advertising it as the drink you have when you’re not having a drink, under the brand name Claytons.
The word soon entered the Australian and New Zealand vernacular. No matter whether you are an Aussie, or a kiwi like myself, we use it to describe all kinds of things that are obviously not what they seem. For example, a common-law couple might be described as having a Claytons marriage.
So, now you know. To me, an internet friendship is the kind you participate in when you are not participating in one. Or is it?
Strictly speaking, at best we can only ever say that we are acquainted with one another. To become true friends requires that we physically meet or have met at some time during our lifetimes, spending time together. Think about it.
All we have to go on when engaging via the internet, to help us decide if we like one another, are the totally sterile typed words on the screen in front of us, just like these ones. What we cannot do is pick up on each other’s tells, such as audible inflection, avoiding or making eye contact, etc, etc.
While we may enjoy reading what each other has to say, chances are that if we ever actually met we might find we have absolutely nothing in common, or worse, that we instantly dislike each other.
Yes, you can use applications like Skype or similar video call systems to contact one another, but all that does is let us see each other, warts and all, as well as putting an actual voice to someone we know through uploaded photographs and by what they type.
Even then there is no guarantee that we might actually want to meet. Take the use of our everyday speech patterns. Some people’s voices can, and do, get on your nerves. Especially if they are of the whining variety. Some people tend towards the endless use of expletives, seeing nothing wrong in peppering every sentence they utter with them.
In a way its a blessing that we are separated by the many miles between us. If we ever did actually meet, chances are that after we had sized one another up in the first thirty seconds, that one or both of us would turn on our heels and head back home. Humans are funny like that. Some would say that we can and do act irrationally when it comes to meeting one another for the first time. Remember, when we actually meet, we don’t just use our eyes and ears to size one another up. Our other senses along with our inbuilt intuition comes into play. A few thousand years ago it used to be known as our fear or flight response.
Our typed conversations hide a multitude of sins. For instance – it might be that one of us has a body odour problem. Or perhaps one of us is inclined to pick their nose. It might even be (god forbid) that one of us spits, or doesn’t use a handkerchief when clearing our nose! The point is, how would you or I know? We wouldn’t. No one would. And yet, despite all of that, we do become friends in the completely artificial unfeeling world of the internet.
At best maybe what we are is the electronic twenty-first century equivalent of nineteenth and twentieth century pen pals, destined never to meet, but happy to communicate with one another, maybe not every day, but certainly several times each week…
PS – If memory serves, a glass of Claytons tasted positively foul – bleh! No make that double bleh!!