Saturday, March 17

my virtual world

I spend a decent amount of time on the computer. One of my jobs involves quite a bit of wait time and so I have a bunch of websites where I pass the time. I found a wonderful wedding planning forum last year, and now that everyone has gotten married we've moved over to an unofficial newlywed forum.

I feel a special kinship to these women. I have seen photos of their weddings, their husbands, their pets and renovations. I've heard them complain about their mothers or their in-laws, ask for advice on parties they are planning and recipes. Often there is some drama to be reported: a stash of porn has been found or a couple's sex life has collapsed. There are daily polls on topics running the gamut from what nickname you call your husband/boyfriend to what food you would eat if you were trapped on a desert island. There is even a confession time when regulars write over their handles and anonymously tell their deepest secrets.

There is an intimacy to this world which is somehow made possible by being behind a computer. I don't know these women. I probably wouldn't recognize most of them if I passed them on the street and I don't know their real names, but I still care about them. We care about each other, so much so that virtual baby showers are being planned for several of them.

I'm shocked by how these people's lives touch me. One regular's fiance was recently diagnosed with leukemia, which really frightens me. And on another forum, one frequented by some of our regulars, a poster was killed by her boyfriend. Somehow the murder victim, who I never knew existed before I heard of her death, seemed so real and close to me. She could have been one of my "friends." And then I wondered what would happen if one of us were hit by a bus. How would any of us know?

I know these women are very supportive and giving (some of them have already offered to be tested as bone marrow donors for the boyfriend with cancer). But when I don't know someone's real name, and I don't know where they live, how would I know if they were missing or dead? Would they disappear as anonymously as they already exist on the internet? How real is our connection? Does it extend past the keyboard and monitor, into real life?

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