On the Value of Friendship…

“The connections we make can define our lives, and learning how to choose which people we invite into our lives is worthy of the deepest thought.”(1)

For the longest time in Second Life I kept to myself. I didn’t really put myself out there and try to meet anybody or start a friendship. I guess because I wasn’t sure what I was really doing or where I was going with my time in world. I kept myself at a distance because I was distracted but also because I was worried.

Alicia's New Years Eve EVE party
I’m not really a social butterfly or a party girl. I live a quiet second life because a lot of the time, I am simply working or I am logged in, but tabbed out. People will message me and sometimes I don’t get back for hours, either because I have forgotten I am logged in or I am absorbed in something I am doing. I always feel terrible for that. It takes a REALLY patient and understanding person to deal with my long in world silences. And some days are just hard for me. Some days social interactions are filled with a minefield of insecurities and paranoia and stress. I go over every conversation I have had that day and remember every word and hate myself for them. I physically cringe and have to try to breathe through moments of sheer panic and try to go through different logic techniques to talk myself down from the anxiety attack.

When you meet someone who can deal with all that and be ok with your constant bouts of awkward and long thousand topic rambles, suddenly, you feel less of all that about yourself. So one day, I reached out to someone I had been watching on YouTube and reading her blogs. It started with a sentence…this is my year to be brave. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I just talked and kept talking, I listened, I was persistent and I reached. I asked way too many questions as I always do, and she actually didn’t think that was such a terrible thing. In giving of myself, I found that perhaps I wasn’t always so very awkward. I found that I could be fun and other people would find that fun too. Friendship is like a mirror sometimes, it reflects back at you those things about yourself that other people see in you.

I am grateful for the few friends that I have made. I am thankful for their patience. I have met some genuinely lovely people. I have talked about them before. Some have come and gone as lightly as a feather touch upon my life. Others have pulled up a chair and stayed. I have friends I have met in other worlds. There is a particularly persistent group who I have been talking to since vanilla WOW. We are a small group but we have many years of fun and fights, caring a consistency. I have met each one of them in RL but that is not what made us close, or even kept us there. It was just a matter of location.

Recently I lost a friend. It didn’t end with a bang, but only a steady silence over the internet seas. There was no huge argument, just a quiet loss, confusion and absence. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I retreated back to my closest friends, those tried and true. I grieved, because the ending of a close friendship is as sad and heart breaking as ending any relationship. I questioned myself. I questioned my understanding of truth and reality. I thought about words I read about internet friendships and I wondered. I wondered what the reality is.

31.45
Jacques-Louis David, 1787, The Death of Socrates, 1.3 m x 1.96 m, Metropolitan Museum of Art

There have been many philosophers who have pondered what makes a friendship. Aristotle defined three kinds of friendship – of utility, of pleasure and of the good. He pondered that the first two sorts of friendship were short term friendships, derived of a selfish nature for usefulness, practicality or good times. These friendships were short lived because our pleasures and desires change over time and so the friends that are used for such ends also are short lived. The third sort of friendship was the sort that arose from a mutual admiration of the good in another and a striving to bring out the good in each other.

If these are the types of friendship, what DEFINES a friendship? What is so important if we desire the kind of friendship that is long lived and strives for mutual benefit? An entry in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states:

“In philosophical accounts of friendship, several themes recur consistently, although various accounts differ in precisely how they spell these out. These themes are: mutual caring (or love), intimacy, and shared activity…” (2)

The Vordun with Wavie 1024x768Mutual caring or love, I think is something that grows over time with both intimacy and shared activity. Intimacy in this sense of the word, is not a physical intimacy, but rather a sharing of those things we hold close to ourselves. It is the kind of intimacy that comes only through mutual sharing, of taking a risk and trusting. Intimacy is also formed through shared activity. We all have our “in jokes”, those only the people with whom we have shared circumstances have a part in. So these things are caught together in a feedback loop. They strengthen each other and allow friendship to grow and develop over time. It takes work and understanding. Without these things, friendships fail.

So, I see now. I see where things went wrong and I accept the loss. However, does that mean it wasn’t REAL? When a friendship is based over the internet, when you have met that person online in a virtual world or through social media, is that friendship any less REAL for the lack of proximity? For me, the reality is this…each and every friendship is real and meaningful. I don’t care if it is “real” life or a “second life”, a “physical reality” or a “digital” reality. The feelings are real and the emotions are real. The trauma at facing the end, it feels very real.

Because here is the thing. Our avatars, they may be digital. We may exist as pixels over the internet in virtual worlds, but that picture is just a representation of ourselves. It isn’t real, but I am. It is an image of my reality. Just as my body is a representation of who I am here in the physical world, but it is not the entirety of who I am. And so, for me the value of friendship lies in its shared reality of mutual caring, intimacy and shared activity. It IS real, even when it’s time has passed and all that lingers are the memories and the emotion.

And THAT thought is enough to make me smile, pick myself up, hold the hands of the friends who still stand beside me and try again.

On the Value of Friendship

Credits:

Location:
Baja Sands
Slurl: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Baja%20Sands/227/231/22

She wears:
Body: Maitreya Lara
Head: Akeruka Lulu
Hair: Truth Halona
Eyes: Atelier Pepe Dreamy Eyes
Arm: Shu Mesh N.cc Nuada Arms Implant
Arm Bracelet: Real Evil Arwen Arm Bracelet
Dress: Erratic hanna dress
Shoes: Justice Lotus Boots
Pose: Own Pose

He Wears:
Body: Signature Gianni
Head: Akeruka Julian
Hair: Stealthic Obscura
Eyes: {Song} Sublime Cold Eye
Top: Not So Bad Gabriel Suit Blazer
Pants: {COLD-ASH} Mens Mesh Riley Boot-style Jeans
Shoes: {COLD-ASH} Mens Mesh Woodcreek boots
Pose: Own Pose

References:

(1) From Besties to Bromances: A Philosophical Look at Friendship|The Mantle
http://www.mantlethought.org/philosophy/besties-bromances-philosophical-look-friendship

(2) Friendship (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/

Some extra reading: Aristotle’s Email- Or, Friendship In The Cyber Age|Issue 61|Philosophy Now
https://philosophynow.org/issues/61/Aristotles_Email_-_Or_Friendship_In_The_Cyber_Age

Picture:
Death of Socrates By Jacques-Louis David – https://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436105, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28552

One thought on “On the Value of Friendship…

  1. Interesting read.

    As someone who grew up without the internet, I feel a deficit in the idea of friendship lacking physical contact.
    But that also links to issues around trust, and experiences of rejection and shame.

    Like

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