For complete context about why I’m not having a birthday party for my 27th birthday this year and how you can still celebrate with me, read You’re Invited to My 27th Birthday Bash.
“But they’re your internet ‘friends,'” my maternal grandma said to me after I visited her post-WriterCon in 2004 and I showed her the photos of my fellow fangirls. “They aren’t, you know, weird?”
While my grandma only has my best interests at heart, her line of inquiry is one I’ve heard a lot. Yes, I have friends on the internet and the vast majority I met on the internet. And yes, I’ve met around 60% of them face-to-face. No, they’re not any more weird than I am, and *knock on wood* none of them are serial killers. But with shows like How to Catch a Predator spinning around in the zeitgeist, I’m not surprised I get these question.
True fact: the one and only time I’ve ever been cyberstalked was in college and it was an ex-boyfriend that I’d had in high school. I imagine this is true of most cyberstalking cases. Heck, look at the current cyber bullying problem; it’s all done by people the victim knew “in real life.”
Social networking, blogging, hanging out on these intertubes, it’s what I do, and naturally, I’ve made it a place to find friends. It’s certainly easier to find friends interested in the same things I am — Captain America, fluffy bunnies, and Lost Girl — with the entire world as my oyster. I’ve found that once you’ve met a handful of your online friends, from them on, one person knows another, who knows another. The world is far smaller than you’d think.
My internet friends aren’t just internet friends. They are my real life friends. They are the ones who cheer me up on a bad day with e-mails, photos, and silly stories. My “internet” friends let me and Jason crash at their homes when we went to the Olympics in Vancouver and when we went to DC this past fall. Some of them are acquaintances; some are good friends; and some are like family.
In 2004, I met my friend Jess online. I’d left her a comment on a piece of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer fanfiction she’d written about Willow/Tara, and whatever it was, we struck a cord together. We started e-mailing and im’ing back and forth. Jess lives in Boston, but was unemployed at the time, and when we started co-writing stories together, she started living on West Coast time. Eventually, we started talking on the phone. (Both of us can be talkers, especially if we start going on about our stories.) And in 2005, Jess made a trip out west to visit me and her siblings.
Explaining how a co-writer fits on your family tree is next to impossible to a non-writer. Sometimes I feel Jess knows every single thing about me, and I know all about her. I can say anything to Jess. Anything. We can be brutally honest to each other — and both of us are bitches sometimes — and we may fight, but we always make up. It’s something about co-writing.
Now I should take a moment to say that not everyone in my life loves Jess or even likes her. After her visit, a few of my friends told me that they didn’t like her, but they saw how I do. Of course, they can’t give Jess a lecture on the proper use of the semi-colon or go off on a rant about how character x really loves character y and why does y have to be such an ass about it. Jess had some adjustments to the West Coast too. She wanted to know why the clerk at Safeway was hitting me (because I’m hot obviously), and by hitting on me, Jess really meant why was the clerk asking me about my day.
After Jess stayed with me for a week, she went off to her sister’s place. Within about four hours, I got a phone call from her. Her sister’s place was infested with fleas, and Jess couldn’t stand to stay there. Being a germaphobe myself, I told her she could come back to my house. With the condition that I was going back to my full-time school schedule as I’d only cleared myself one week, not two. And because this is what you do for your co-writer.
When Jess showed up, we hauled all her belongings down the basement and started doing laundry. I got her my robe so she could wash literally every single thing she’d brought with her. And it was cold in that basement as the heat my building had been died off and one for her entire visit.
Jess watched a lot of Dead Like Me from under a pile of blankets while I worked on my homework. She came to class and club meetings with me. She went to lunch with my grandparents and second cousins. Jess ate the food from my cafeteria plan, and she babysat me after I drank too much at my friends’ house-party. Jess’ time on campus with me inspired her to go back to school, and currently, she’s on track for a bachelor’s degree in the next year.
Co-writers are like family; you can love them and hate them. But unlike family, you can push them around and tell them exactly why they had to burn those turquoise sweatpants with the hole in the crotch or how when you finally dump that person they never liked, they tell you details about you not even you knew. Co-writers.
If it wasn’t for the internet, I would’ve never met Jess. She’s not a serial killer or anymore psychotic than I am. And she’s just one of the many friends that I’ve met first on this series of tubes, only to relax in person with sometime years later. The internet is awesome like that.
If you’d like a safe place to meet up with your internet friends, think about donating to GeekGirlCon, a convention focusing on geeky women. There you can meet up with your fellow Linux users and Doctor Who cosplayers. And maybe, you’ll meet your next co-writer.