My Internet friends are real

Internet friends are those you met online, or with which you stay in touch mainly online.

I have a lot of them. I’ve always had! Since I was 14 I’ve been active in different online boards (about music, films…), started one of my own (Riot grrls in Spanish, not active anymore), and even had a long and loving relationship with someone I met talking about music online and was just an alias for months. I still have friends I met online years ago.

In the last couple of year, however, my Internet friends count has gone totally mad. Friends I’ve met through my work at Cobot, in coworking forums, organisers of Rails Girls in other parts of the world, or just people who posted something I loved on Twitter and with whom I started exchanging links and talking about life stuff. 

Image
Oren lead the Coworking Map project. He lives in Dallas but came to Germany to pick up a prize and took some time off to visit me in Berlin. AFK!

I have had some real life away from keyboard conversations with some of this people (Coworking Spain, GCUC and Coworking Europe, for example, are moments when the online coworking community gets together) but for most of the time the magic happens in front of a screen. We discuss in Groupbuzz or our LinkedIn and Google groups, do Hangouts… We follow each other in Twitter, like each other’s both personal and professional updates on Facebook, and repost what’s interesting for our community. In our case, having a common interest keeps us together. Coworking is not on the press so often, there are not as many books written about it and we’re not a huge community at the moment, so having our little network of coworking space managers (and all things around it) helps us feel less alone and learn from each others.

What starts with an intellectual exchange and out of necessity of advice, usually develops to something more personal. I am genuinely happy for them when I see they get married, have children, travel to exotic places, finish their master thesis or succeed in business. Even though liking a picture on Facebook is as easy as clicking on a link, each of their likes, birthday wishes, answers to my questions or support when I feel blue or need advice felt real to me. I’ve seen couples flourish in our little, first only online, community. I’ve seen business partnerships happen thanks to tweets. Associations formed online. Books written collaboratively using a shared Google doc. Not in second life, but in what you call ‘the real world’.

When we travel to a city where some of us lives, it’s common to drop a line to say hi, and meet for coffee, or stay at someone’s couch. I’ve shared accommodation in conferences with some of this people, only having spoken with them over the Internet before. And still, for some people, they are not more than Internet friends. 

GCUC was a nice get together of Internet friends – this is our dinner on night #1. See how smily we are! And most of us had just met online until then…

Here’s what I say: My Internet friends don’t keep me from making other friends that live close and share other things to me. I have friends in Berlin. We go for coffee, watch movies, dance, wonder. I love them. I chose them carefully and they’re the-best-ever. But I will also keep my Internet friends, real or imaginary, for now. For they feed my brain and fill my heart no matter where they are.

“When did you meet [fellow defendant Gottfrid] for the first time IRL?” asked the Prosecutor.
“We do not use the expression IRL,” said Peter, “we use AFK.”
“IRL?” questioned the judge.
“In Real Life,” the Prosecutor explained to the judge.
“We do not use that expression,” Peter noted. “Everything is in real life. We use AFK—Away From Keyboard.”
“Well,” said Roswall. “It seems I am a little bit out of date.”

From the trial against The Pirate Bay

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