My blogging friend Angela Lawson asked me to write a guest post for her blog, You are Awesome, Trying to Stay Awake in a Sleepy World: Parenting, Leadership, and Personal Development. My post is now up on her blog. For my own blog, I wanted to write about what her request means to me.
In the flesh and blood world, my relationships are tanking, or they’ve already tanked. I’m at the end of a fourteen-year slide. I went from gobs of friends to none at all, although I can think of several people who would refute this claim. They’d say “WTF, Jeff, I’m your friend.”
This makes me wonder: when does friendship end?
Once, mid-career, I joined an LLC as a minority shareholder (a super minority, a why bother minority). Morgan, one of the other owners. had just gotten married. He was hitting that point in life where he was aging out of his college friendships, forging new adult relationships, and had acquired several close business contacts. One night over beers, he told me how he and his wife weeded their invitation list for a manageable wedding. “If we hadn’t hung out socially in the past twelve months, no invite.” Seemed reasonable to me. Using Morgan’s logic, I have two friends, maybe three.
When talking with others, my mind moves slowly. I’m overcome with self-consciousness, which leads to self-doubt. It’s a blockage I can’t steer around. In a conversation, a slow mind is a glaring handicap. Ultimately, I come off as aloof or rude or odd. In the online world, I fare better. Written communication is easier for me. I can be wise and witty, satirical and sarcastic, and I do it at my own pace.
I know a couple in London. On occasion, I write for the running magazine they publish. There’s a lot of back and forth between us: messaging, communication—we email and tweet. We’ve done this for years. Over time, personal tidbits leak into our conversation. Enough has been shared now that I consider them friends, but still, we’ve never met. Next month, by chance, we’ll be in the same tiny town in France. We plan to meet up—maybe a drink, maybe some ice cream, something. Susan thinks this is great, a chance to solidify our friendship. More likely, I think, it will ruin the relationship. Future online communication will be tainted by that awkward encounter in France.
Slowly, I’ve become friends with Angela Lawson. We began following each other a couple of years ago. She lives in Minnesota (or maybe it’s Wisconsin, I can’t keep them straight) a half a continent away. I doubt we’ll ever meet. We won’t chat over coffee, go out for a drink, play paintball together, or whatever it is people do with their friends. We’ll read each other’s blog posts, comment, compare and contrast experiences. We’ll like and retweet Twitter posts, and maybe bump into each other on Facebook (this is rare, I only ever see Facebook posts from about five people anymore).
I can count six bloggers I consider to be true friends. Because we’re all sharing our intimate thoughts, fears, and desires—the sort of things you only learn about from your closest friends—there’s a short-cut to friendship with bloggers. No, we’ve never hung out socially, but I care about them and they seem to care about me. They comment on my posts when no one else does. They encourage me and compliment me, and hopefully, I reciprocate.
Angela takes a special interest in me. Her comments are practically as long as my blog posts. She puts real thought into them, they’re always complimentary, and they always add context to what I’ve written. She introduced me to the editors at the Good Men Project who now republish one of my old blog posts weekly. And when I decided to get serious about building a Twitter following, she introduced me around the writing community resulting in around one hundred and fifty new connections. When she asked me to write a post for her blog about leadership, I couldn’t say no… even though leadership is something I never think about. The post is written and published. Angela likes it, Susan likes it, but I don’t. I think it makes me seem like an asshole.
Take a few minutes to pop over to Angela’s site, read some of her stuff. It’s a nice mix of businessy writing, parenting introspection and even some raw self-analysis. The writing is always strong, and, unlike my blog, where I have a tendency to ramble, she always makes a point.