This Sunday, after 14 years of knowing one another, I finally met my friend K.
Chances are, that sentence doesn’t make sense to you. How can I claim to be friends for 14 years with someone I haven’t met before now? No, there’s no disrupting of the space-time continuum and I’ve taken no poetic license. The answer is much more simple. The internet.
Way back in 1998, a socially awkward, lonely eleven-year-old got lost in the Fire Temple in the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. At her wit’s end, she turned to a now-defunct website called The Temple of Light (ToL). There, she found detailed dungeon walkthroughs, and a small online forum. After a few weeks of accessing the walkthroughs and lurking on the forum, she opened her first forum account and came to be known as Skyrah.
Spoiler alert: little eleven year old Sky grew up to be me.
The five most active members of the ToL forums – Blade, Mew, Catoo, Sky, and Twist – became fast friends, calling themselves the Guards and embarking on chaotic, ridiculous, highly-disorganized adventures in which nothing ever really happened,but at least we enjoyed ourselves.
This went on for years, with guards appearing and disappearing as our so-called-real-lives merged and emerged. That’s just how online communities work.
Whether or not I ever acknowledged it, Catoo was my character’s best friend, and for a little while there, K was one my closest friends, too. When it was my turn to disappear from the forums to devote my time and energy to something called “high school,” K was one the I kept in touch with. Not much, mind you. Just the occasional email or AIM chat conversation. Then, for a few years, nothing at all. Until in a fit of nostalgia I casually typed his name into Facebook search.
Boom. All of a sudden, there he was. Full profile. Family photos and everything. I friended him immediately.
Facebook and Twitter offers a wonderful window into the lives of friends living far away, offering a level of closeness that text alone can’t create. After a few messages stretched out over the span of several more years, yesterday, K and I had our first face-to-face conversation. As far as I’m concerned, we’re “real-life” friends now – but then again, we’ve always been real friends.
The internet – and the social web that it spawned – changed the face of person-to-person interaction. While there has been plenty of discussion on the dangers of the internet and it’s apparent erosion of real-life, in person interaction, I don’t think enough attention has been given to the positives (and I argued this all of the time as a Social Anthropology undergrad). The social web enlarged the possibilites for forging unique, lasting, and valuable friendships that are every bit as meaningful, lasting, and real as those forged in the lunch room. (But that’s a topic for another blog post…)
It was great to finally meet you, K. Here’s to 14 more years!
(PS – sorry I wrote a blog post about you. Consider this pay back for the time you posted my 6th grade school picture on the forums. Now we’re even.)