Saturday, November 26, 2011

Manners… Pen Pals, and Internet Friends…

Discarded  flowers in full bloom in Paris, October 2011 (photo taken by the author)

I wrote a post a few months agoFriendships...Gold and Silver..., after giving a radio interview on the subject, about friendship and the rise of “internet friendship” in the last few years.  l I questioned the reality and honesty of communicating via an effectively anonymous medium, one in which regular checks and balances are difficult, if the “friends” involved have “covered their tracks” with pseudonyms.  Facebook and Twitter are certainly employed as search and discover mediums.  In earlier times, the checks and balances were made more simply through friends and work colleagues.

I compared these modern medium friendships with the ones in our lives which are silver and gold standard relationships; the ones which are long standing and able to withstand sometimes critical and deliberating conversations, face to face over coffee or cocktails.
I appeared on ABC TV recently discussing the same subject  (photo courtesy the author)

But, then I wondered, how different is the internet correspondence of today to the “pen pal” correspondence of 40 years ago? I had a pen pal at another school when I was I was a little girl; the writing of letters was encouraged by our teachers to assist with our English writing.  Years later I had a pen pal in France. And I  remember watching the TV show Mash and seeing the character of Radar writing to someone and fabricating his status in the army, his height and good looks…and then suffering enormous remorse; and having the courage to correct the lie. A courageous and poignant episode I thought at the time.

It has recently come to my attention, through a friend involved in the experience, about this phenomenon of the building of relationships via blog comment, subsequent blog related emails, more personal emails, SMS, telephone calls and finally a meeting  when the fascination level has reached a crescendo.  The first meeting of the correspondents, the subsequent meetings and the development of what can become a genuine relationship. Sometimes love. And then subsequent betrayal when the underlying, carefully constructed lies are exploded by reality.

And I particularly found it interesting, as this friend and I had discussed many times the possible hazards of spending so much time, via blogs, with “virtual friends” . At what stage do they become real friends on the internet?  Is it when we know their real names and email addresses  - should we ask if they are real names and addresses and how do we check?
Musee Rodin Paris October 2011 (taken by the author)
And should we all ponder the words that we use to describe ourselves and our circumstances…are we all truthful or is embellishment, depending on the day and our temperament,  such an enticement to deceit?

In the days when I was a child my parents spent many months apart.  My father was in the Navy and away for up to six months at a time.  I have many of my late parent’s letters and their reel to reel voice tapes, all of which were received, of course, some weeks later than their transcription. 

Trust was paramount for them, in their long term correspondence.

It encouraged me to wonder about these days of long distance relationships which are also nurtured by modern communications…the emails, the SMS, the telephone calls, which bely time zones. How does one check the veracity of what we are told in long, languid email prose and time varied correspondence?

Wisdom tells us that the internet will allow no lies; that the ability to find all information, to see truth at all levels, with more resources every day at our disposal, is possible.

But, I ask myself the question:  whether the correspondence is via letter, Skype, emails, SMS, cell phone messages,  do positive friendships and loving relationships exist without trust?  I think not.


  1. Pen pals and internet friends are also part of our life. They cannot be met that easily but can be shared many things through e-mail.

    Sample Emails

  2. Welcome Jaylen. Yes I agree. And I too share interests with Internet acquaintances. I don't think anything can measuree up against honest eye contact and then that is when we truly become friends

  3. I regret to say that the most charming people are probably not as nice as they appear.In fact charm is a characteristic of psychopaths and borderlines....And some people are very cunning.They study you get to know you and then approach you.I have got to know someone and then by accident he got onto a blog under my pseudonym and began to repeat the same behaviour....says he is lonley,lives alone,had a hard time.... so steer clear of anyone seeking pity and care

    1. Thank you for your comment...unfortunately predatory behaviour seems to be prevalent on the internet.