I have been online for over fifteen years. I have many friends from different places online. I’ve met only a select few in person. I met David many years ago and it was a lovely experience. I planned on meeting Fred, who wrote for the same ezine I’ve been writing for these last several years. However, instead I met Cliff when he also came to pay respects to Fred who died rather suddenly. So I guess I met Fred, too, but he didn’t get to meet me even though we only lived about 90 minutes apart.

I have friends I truly care about scattered all over the world. I’ve never met them. I have friends across the US from east to west and north to south. I even have friends in the far north – Canada. I have friends in Australia and England. I have friends in the Netherlands and Germany. I have friends living God alone knows where. I meet them online and they are real and dear to me.

I know that people can be cyberbullied to death, literally committing suicide after being attacked online. I also know that I have rejoiced in my friends’ lives even if I’ve never met them. I’ve known Meridith and Kirsten since their babies were babies and those kids are in school and have been for years. I worry about Linda when I know she is out fighting fires. I rejoiced in John’s first grandchild and Rich’s new additions to his family. I’ve celebrated Lin’s publication of her first book. I’ve cared for and at least tried to be supportive of my friends who face troubles, too. There are so many friends that I can only begin to list them here.

Some of my online friends are from forums, some from as far back as AOL. Some of my friends are from Facebook where I found kindred spirits among the friends of my friends. Some of my friends are bloggers, people I follow and truly care about.

That’s my problem today. One of my friends, a woman I have never met and really don’t ever think I will, is going through a rough time. She is doubtful and angst ridden. And it hurts my heart. I can’t sit down over a cup of coffee and listen to her and offer a shoulder to cry on. I’m helpless as I watch this strong, determined, wonderful woman struggle with the vagaries of life.

And if life were like it was in days of old when all our friends were people we could pick out in a crowd, people we could call up or run over to their house, I would do something like that. But I’m trapped by the very system that allowed me to create friendships, strong bonds, actual loving care across time and space to places around the globe. My friends are scattered all over the place. I wouldn’t recognize them if they stood in front of me.

But I care about them just as much as I cared for my neighbors who congregated on the side deck sipping coffee and talking about everything in our lives. We shared our cares about raising children. We shared out ideologies and politics. We shared gossip and jokes. We shared our lives.

I do no different here online. Well, I don’t share much politics because it is just too volatile, but I’ve taken stances when the cause was just.

I’m hampered by the system that has given me so much connection. I have never been to Australia or New Zealand, but I speak with people from there daily. I’ve never been to England, but I have friends hither and yon who hail from there. I’ve been to Canada and Ireland and Germany and the Netherlands where I do have friends, but I didn’t get to meet them.

I honestly don’t care less for my online friends than for my “real” friends. My online friends ARE my real friends. And I hope that they find me tickling at the edges of their lives and consider me one of their friends, too.

I just wish I could do more than type. WG, I would love to buy you a cup of coffee and tell you how wonderful and inspiring you are. All I have is words. As a writer, I believe words should be enough, but as a person, I know they aren’t.