Tiya nakita ra gyud nako sa Parade...
Published: November 18, 2007
John Fetto, a lawyer from San Francisco, San Francisco, met one of his best friends when the guy killed him. The two menâ€”along with thousands around the worldâ€” were playing an online computer game called Gemstone III. â€œHe dragged my corpse out of a cave, found a cleric, had me raised from the dead and then adopted me as his friend,â€ Fetto recalls.
Sound bizarre? It is, and it isnâ€™t.
As more people turn to the Internet for comfort, information or distraction, some are finding a treasure they never expected: friendships as strong as or stronger than their relationships in â€œreal life.â€
Men, in particular, find that e-friendship allows them to open up in ways that may be difficult in person. â€œI tend to lose all my style and wit sitting on a sofa next to someone,â€ admits Jeffrey Adams, 52, a San Diego purchasing agent. â€œLet me put on my headset, and I become the life of the party.â€ He has exchanged thoughts with online acquaintances on everything from politics to pets to aging parents. And, he adds, â€œIâ€™ve also asked e-friends about things I would never dream of asking even my dearest friends from the â€˜real world.â€™ â€
A recent study by the Pew Project for the Internet and American Life found that the Internet builds rather than decreases friendships by broadening usersâ€™ geographic networks, giving people more contacts to communicate with about health issues, hobbies or other interests. For Fetto, 55, the friend who â€œkilledâ€ him became a lifeline. He began playing the computer game as a distraction from grief when his wife, Rita, was dying. After meeting â€œRamâ€ in the role of a magical warrior, Fetto learned that his new friend was an Israeli Special Forces officer who in real life had dragged the bodies of comrades out of harmâ€™s way.
As Rita weakened, Fettoâ€™s conversations with Ram were less about the game and more about being a middle-aged attorney with a dying wife. Ram was the kind â€œwho would argue with you constantly, but we would still remain friends,â€ says Fetto. â€œIf I needed helpâ€”no arguments, he was there. We talked about everything, from women to world politics. When my wife was really ill, Ram reminded me to get up and shave. He got me through a lot of long nights.â€
That was five years ago. Rita has since died, and Fetto has left the game, but he still talks with Ram. More than 7,000 miles apart, they remain brothers-in-arms who will likely never meet face-to-face.
Fettoâ€™s experience is not unique. We all know that the Internet is expanding the boundaries of the universe for teens and young adults. But with the PC now as ubiquitous as the kitchen sink in American homes, people in their 30s, 40s and beyond are exploring the virtual world and forming relationships that are very real.
â€œThe support or companionship that an individual can receive from peersâ€”people who have experienced or are experiencing the same things you areâ€”is unique,â€ says Antonina Bambina of Columbia University, the author of Online Social Support. The range of interactions varies widely. Someone putting up wallpaper may join a decorating group, get answers and sign off when the job is done, notes Bambina. â€œOn the other hand, a person can find a group of single parents and develop a peer relationship over time.â€
After suffering four miscarriages, Laurie Mikuta, 43, of Plantation, Fla., found an on-line surrogacy-support group. At first, she read much and said littleâ€”â€œlurking,â€ in Internet vernacular. She was drawn to the posts of Kristina Bossaert, 41, who referred obliquely to a recent loss but was always the first to offer sympathy or congratulations to others.
She e-mailed Kristina offline. â€œI learned that her story was as raw as mine,â€ says Laurie. After a difficult conception, Kristinaâ€™s newborn daughter had contracted an infection in the hospital and died; Kristina had almost lost her life as well. â€œThe late-night hours were the loneliest,â€ Kristina recalls, â€œbut with the online group, I could be brutally honest without fear of reprisal.â€ At times, she adds, â€œit just felt good to cuss!â€
She and Laurie began e-mailing privately. â€œWe shared likes, dislikes, pictures, family dynamics,â€ says Laurie. Kristina, who lives in Los Gatos, Calif., adds: â€œWe had many things in common, but it was the humor, wit and compassion that made us friends.â€
Their friendship thrived on missives exchanged at all hours. â€œHaving your best friend in person for an old-fashioned gossip session is one of the best things in life,â€ says Laurie. â€œBut you can accomplish almost the same feeling if you put on your favorite jammies and bunny slippers, grab a cup of coffee and start typing!â€
That ability to interact at any timeâ€”plus the removal of stress that some feel in face-to-face intimacyâ€”can strengthen a friendship, says Judith Kallos, who runs a Web site about etiquette. Laurie agrees. â€œIf we lived closer, weâ€™d probably end up having to make time for each other. Instead, we â€˜talkâ€™ and â€˜listenâ€™ when itâ€™s convenient.â€
The two friends have more in common now than ever: Both are expecting babies (twins for Kristina) through surrogates, with due dates only three weeks apart. And both are confident that the friendship will endure as their children grow.
â€œI cried when I learned Laurie was expecting,â€ says Kristina. â€œI literally had goosebumps. Nothing was lost through the Internet.â€
How To Find A Friend Online
â€¢ Share something. Whether you have questions about feeding a newborn, living with a rare disease or helping your teen choose a college, you can find support online. There also are sites for every hobby or passion, including knitting, snowboarding, music of all types, travel and cooking. To find a groupâ€”and perhaps a soul mateâ€”just use a search engine, type in your interest and start chatting.
â€¢ Play a game. Consider joining one of many popular online role-playing games, in which thousands of people participate at the same time.
â€¢ Just show up. It takes minutes to create a profile on MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn or one of the multitude of social-networking sites, but it probably wonâ€™t be long before you have more â€œfriendsâ€ than you know what to do with. Theyâ€™ll visit your page to view photos, read about your interests and maybe leave a comment or two. You never know whom you might meet.
But Be Wary
Itâ€™s easy to misread online communication. Experts urge caution with any new potential e-friend. It may be a sign of trouble if a person:
â€¢ Asks too many personal questions too soon.
â€¢ Doesnâ€™t respond to direct questions.
â€¢ Writes in capital letters, which reflects intense emotion, when the discussion doesnâ€™t warrant it.
â€¢ Overreacts to an innocent comment.Linkback: https://tubagbohol.mikeligalig.com/index.php?topic=9496.0