a mash-up of friendship & internet
I recently found out that one of my internet friends is famous. For the sake of approximately six very good reasons, I won’t tell you the circumstances or the details of the aforementioned fame, but needless to say it was both (a) a curious discovery and (b) a kind of reckoning of the state of our friendship, a’la that it’s now almost entirely electronic.
We weren’t always just e-friends. In fact, we’d met in real life and spent real time in the same real space. We’d worked together. We’d spent sometime outside of work together. And we’d generally hung out.
Then drifting occurred: lives shifted, moves happened, and careers diverged. In the end, the best we could muster was a kind of long distance electronic friendship that has over the last couple years degraded to little more than a scattered collection of social media check-ins and digital stalking. We were still connected, friendly, and interested in each other’s lives, but the gaps of time and space left a fog around the definition of that friendly relationship.
And now my friend is apparently famous.
I mean, we’re not talking movie star famous, or fortune-500-famous… but we’re talking newsworthy, wikipedia-page famous, at the very least. Fame comes in many shades, but at the end of the day either you’ve done something of note or you haven’t… and apparently my friend has.
Of course, this discovery and the subsequent reckoning of my connection with this particular person left me in something of a philosophical quandary. It’s not that this was a unique situation, per se. In fact, arguably I share this same type of drifted, loosely-connected relationship with a large percentage of the people I’ve called friends over the years. High school chums, old boy scout pals, former colleagues, university alums, past roommates, and a host of people with whom I once did hours upon hours of marathon training.
But the fame piece throws a metaphorical wrench into those works. It put one in the (admittedly partially selfish) position of wanting to brag about this awesome person you know… once knew… still, kinda… sorta… know-ish. You’re proud of them and simultaneously want to tell the world about this person who was once a measurable part of your life, but that relationship is fuzzy and hard to define.
And then you ask yourself: Are your one-time friends that have become merely e-friends of the kind you keep in scattered and sporadic contact with via vague and self serving channels… are these folks still considered friends? Or are they something else entirely, ill defined by the lack of a word to describe someone distant in time and space… but a mere few clicks of a mouse away?