In the days when the internet was young, the people you met online were, fundamentally, Not To Be Trusted. Internet illiteracy – not to be confused with illiterate people on the internet – was rife: an era in which people really did believe chatrooms were filled with catfishing axe murderers. The prevailing wisdom was that you had to be a special kind of foolish willingly to meet with those would-be killers in the flesh.
I remember meeting a bunch of Women From The Internet for the first time, after years of speaking online. A good degree of terror gave way to the realisation that we were all delightful. Our expectations are different now, even though the risk of homicide by internet stranger feels oddly higher.
A few weeks back, I went on a short holiday in the south of this vast country, America. Before I booked my ticket, I contacted an internet stranger-friend to tell them of my plans. I received a wall of text in reply, with information to populate at least three different itineraries, depending on how far I wanted to travel, my reliance on rideshare apps and what kinds of foods I like – all from an internet friend.
I think often of the intimacies we now share as standard with people we’ve never met – and may never, ever meet – and marvel. Accumulated knowledge, via jokes and throwaway statements and any number of markers, all absorbed and thrown back lovingly. Modern life is rubbish, but these friendships are good.
I ended up having lunch, dinner and a mini-roadtrip with my friend. And as I bit into a recommended biscuit (for which read scone, UK reader) smothered in cranberry-apple butter, I blessed the internet and all its indigenes.
My tan will fade soon. The tender feeling will hang around longer.
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