another week, another survey purporting to reveal great truths about ourselves. This one says that not only do UK housewives spend more of their downtime online than anyone else in the whole wide world, but also that – shock, horror – people are increasingly open to turning "online" friends into people they'd deign to call real life friends.
To which I can only say good: Quite right too. If there's a more perfect place for making real friends, I have yet to find it.
The friends I've made online – from blogging in particular, be they other bloggers or commenters on this or my own site – are the best friends I now have. And yet, when I say this to people, many times they'll look at me like I'm a social failure; and when surveys like this are reported, it's always with a slight air of being the "It's a crazy, crazy, crazy world!" item last thing on the news. Some portions of my family still refer to my partner of six years as my "Internet Boyfriend".
Call me naive, but far from being the bottomless repository of oddballs and potential serial killers, the internet is full of lively minded, like-minded engaging people – for the first time in history we're lucky enough to choose friends not by location or luck, but pinpoint perfect friends by rounding up people with amazingly similar interests, matching politics, senses of humour, passionate feelings about the most infinitesimally tiny hobby communities. The friends I have now might be spread wide, geographically, but I'm closer to them than anyone I went to school with, by about a million miles.
For me, and people like me who might be a little shy or socially awkward – and there are plenty of us about – moving conversations and friendships from the net to a coffee shop table or the bar stool is a much more organic, normal process than people who spend less time online might expect.
Depending on the root of the friendship, on where the conversation started, the benefit is clear – you cut out the tedium of small...