Email Friends: The New “Pen Pal”

Img_2355 No one believed us last Friday when we told them we just met at 10 a.m. that morning at the Pittsburgh airport.

Met, as in “in person,” but really Kristin and I have known each other for a few years. We’re both members of the Weight Watchers discussion boards, and somehow through all the inane chatter online we found each other. There are other friends I’ve been fortunate to find there, too – 12 of whom I’ve met. Kristin was my number 13 and I was her number 47 (she’s been to a few board get-togethers). I think the fact that we’re both prime numbers – my favorite numbers in the world – is not coincidence. It’s a sign that our friendship is the real deal.

How could it not be? We send email daily, or almost daily. We talk on the phone as much as I talk to my sister. I know her well enough to know she could blackmail me with the info she has on me.

Even though the Internet has been a part of most of all our lives for several years, it’s still hard to explain to folks the nature of online friendships. The kinds of online relationships we hear about in the media or amongst friends are of the sexual nature – either legit dating sites or Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” type stuff. Men leave their families for some clandestine rendezvous. Women discover their true love lives in Singapore. But true friendships can be forged online. They’re no different than their pen-and-paper predecessor, the “pen pal.”

It takes time and commitment to keep up an email friendship, but they are the least likely friendships to be taken for granted. I have several long-time friends from Minnesota whom I email regularly, too. Two friends who live within 10 minutes of my house write to me regularly, our friendships buttressed by the written word.

Writing is more personal and, I’d argue, more intimate than phone conversations or face-to-face meetings. What’s said out loud is lost in the air, leaving no trace of having been spoken. Committing words which relay feelings, emotions, and actions to “paper” leaves the writer vulnerable. It takes a good amount of trust to expose your words to another person.

I trust Kristin. And Val and Shari and Pam and Pam and Pam and Pam (I have several Pam friends). They have my words and I have theirs. They have my back and I have theirs. It’s comforting to turn on my computer in the morning and read an email from a friend. It’s not like you’d call them at 6:30 a.m. but yet they are there with you helping you start your day.

Kristin and I had a great weekend in each other’s real presence. She sounds exactly the way she writes. But even if we hadn’t met in real time, our friendship would be no less real than the friendships I share with people in my town. It’s just different and different is good. Writing is good.

Who do you write to? Who do you call “friend?” I’m curious what you all think about this. Leave me a comment or send me an email. I’d appreciate it.

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3 thoughts on “Email Friends: The New “Pen Pal”

  1. wow! excellent photoshopping job! now no one will know that i’m really a 400 lb black man named tiny.
    i love you a whole bunch and meeting you (in person) was fabulous and i’m so glad i came because it was EXACTLY like i thought it would be. also, i love you a whole bunch because you probably save your emails and have a TON of blackmail information on me, too. hmmmph.
    its interesting to see if people are the same in real life as they are on the internet. some people are MUCH better just online. i’m just so grateful that you’re not one of them. i’ve met many people who have misrepresented themselves online and are completely different in real life…its very disconcerting. hmmmm.

  2. OK, so I’ve called you a few times at 6:30 in the morning. I still think the whole world should run on my schedule.
    Who do I write to? Mostly you. Who knows my complete collection of “Keep me off the Supreme Court” secrets? That would be you. The best way to talk to you? I believe it was those summer evening on your porch in 1999 when I thought I’d be unhappy forever and it turned out I had my head completely up my ass.
    I’m sorry I missed meeting Kristin, though. But I had that offer from that little brunette and well, I had to take it.

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