Chocolate and Gold Coins

Monday, July 11, 2005

Are Blog Friendships Phony?

I came across an interesting post (via Patrix's desipundit) that categorized the visitors to blogs. Most bloggers would probably agree that the only visitors that really count are the banterers and the loyalists: the ones who come by often, leave comments, and maybe post links on their own blogs (if they have them). Although it might be nice to have thousands of visitors a day (which obviously I don’t), if none of them ever commented, or e-mailed, or linked, it would be difficult to believe that your blog made any difference to anyone.

Suppose A, B, C, and D all have blogs and they all read each other’s blogs daily. They comment frequently on each other’s blogs. They frequently link to each other’s blogs. If they all lived in the same city, they might meet and chat and be the best of friends. But A, B, C, and D live in different cities, and will probably never meet. If they never meet, does that mean that they really aren’t friends, they’re just strangers?

My wife (who doesn’t blog and views my blog with contempt) is convinced that “blog friends” are merely strangers, and she cannot see why I would waste precious time writing for strangers. She has a point: if you have never meet someone, then they would be strangers of a sort. But they’re strangers you know a lot about, and they seem nice and interesting and you might form some empathy toward them as if they were your “real” friends. I don’t doubt if D above were to announce that he was getting married or his wife just had a new baby, A, B, and C would be a bit excited about it.

I started this blog as a means for me to write about ideas I had. When I was at the U of Minnesota, I would frequently chat with my classmates about various subjects. It was fun to just to share ideas with peers who could understand my way of thinking. After leaving grad school, I found that my mind was atrophying into mush. I thought that maybe writing about my ideas would force me to keep thinking and to improve the quality of thought and the quality of my writing in general. But, I found that what keeps me blogging more than anything is the fact that there are a few people who read my blog and comment on it.

I remember writing to Amit Varma about what he considered to be the benefit to him from being the great blogger of India. He told me that meeting fellow bloggers at the blog meets meant a lot to him because he is somewhat shy and wouldn’t meet that many people otherwise. It is funny that every picture of him has his face blocked by someone else because he always stands in the background.

It was very nice last week when I got to meet famous bloggers Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan. But such meetings are really rare (they’re the only people I ever met through blogging). I think that blogging is an excellent way of finding people who share your interests and views, but these people might be living on the other side of the world and probably not in your city.

So let me ask you: if you were D and C came to your city, would you be interested in meeting him in person? Why or why not, please comment.


  • Michael, believe it or not, but Patrix and I were just discussing the same thing this morning !

    Its an interesting issue, specially for personal bloggers, since we get such intimate peeks into other people's lives.
    I guess it boild down to good judgement and trust.

    Personally, if I was D, I would'nt trust C with my stocks, or to babysit my kids. Know what I mean ?! But Id certainly trust C enough to meet him over some good food and coffee. Hopefully we'd hit it off in person, and then continue our friendship off and online.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:28 PM  

  • Hi Ash
    I think that's true that even if you read a person's blog a lot, you don't really know that person in the same way you would know someone you meet everyday at work or school. You might know a lot more about certain things but not so much about that person's temperament or personality. The same person who can write up a storm might just look at the wall and have nothing to say in person. And he might not be as nice in person as in a blog, (or conversely, they might seem nice in person but come off as a complete blowhard in the blog).

    The question is, do you want to meet this person, just because he writes an interesting blog. I would guess most people would, but you might be a little wary if that person just said "hey, I'd like to meet you." He is still a stanger of a sort.

    Btw, Ash, I did not know you had kids. :)

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 2:14 PM  

  • Michael, KIDS ??
    No, no, no, not yet :P !

    All hypothetical, my friend :)

    And hey you know what ? You're one of those bloggers it would be interesting to meet. Someday.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:06 PM  

  • I do not kiss ass nor do I show appreciation much. I think agreeing loudly with 'wow! great post!' etc is redundant. It doesn't add anything to the discussion or knowledge. So I only comment when there is a difference of opinion (slight as it maybe) or I agree but have a different perspective. Perhaps this comes from my nature as well as the fact that I used to be on messageboards where the discussion is most important and appreciated most.

    Internet friendships are not completely unreal but they are not real either.

    Anyway good blog. I am here mostly for the economics and social issue-based posts. This is your customer-feedback, if you want to call it that. I see it more like a dialogue.

    yum yum

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:14 PM  

  • Hmm... This inspired a post

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:10 PM  

  • You don't really know a blogger as a person...but often you can tell something about that person. I wouldn't mind meeting some of the bloggers whose blogs I read the kind of meetings Amit and co seem to have often. Bloggers after all are people. But to me, I don't need to meet the person, i'm often happy just reading their blogs/opinions :-)

    As an wife's views aren't too different from your wife's views :-)

    By Blogger Sunil, at 10:20 PM  

  • Michael, I keep writing about this on my blog - about how I seem to have no "real" friends anymore - it has almost become a "dual lives" situation for me - online friends and offline friends - and very sadly, they are mostly distinct worlds -

    it is also my feeling that after a time - say a few years after you start working, it becomes tougher to make new friends - you dont meet too many new people except those your work with. and blogging is a good way for me to meet - on or off line new and different kinds of people....

    and my husband has now learnt to adopt this detached but indulgent look any time I talk about my blog or bloggers - which is *very* often...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:33 PM  

  • Interesting... I somehow feel blog friendship's might be more real than we think. Mainly because before you even meet the person, you get to know what's going on in their heads. All this while being in the background and not actually being face to face.

    So if you do choose to be friends with them in blogsphere, it's because you like and accept who they really are.

    Blogging does bring out the real you even if you're a shy one. So unlike the sort of shady characters you might encounter in chatrooms, I think you do (for the most part) see real characters on blogs.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:06 AM  

  • Hi Ash, Yum Yum, Suzi, Srikanth, Vikram, Sunil, Charu, Viv and Deba

    Sorry not to repond to comments early but I was stuck at home waiting for phone repair (so no internet).

    Ash: Thanks for the kind words. If you and Patrix holiday in D.C. let me know.

    Yum Yum: Some posts are gold coins, others are chocolate. I'll get back to the econ soon. There were some very good posts at the end of last week on economics and religion - a subject few would want to touch.

    Suzi: I have read your blog on occasion, it's nice, I liked taking the how American are you (even though its absolutely stupid).

    Srikanth: Nice post. I am always glad when one of my post gets someone to think about thing an post something.

    Vikram: I always appreciate your comments and the fact that you point to my blog often. I really appreciate it. If you ever get to D.C., let me know.

    Sunil: I we ever meet, all we will hear is our wives complaining about us. Actually, I've been to Seattle many times, so it could happen.

    Talking about wife hating the blog: I once offered to delete the blog since my wife was getting so worked up about it, but she decided that she could allow this one indulgence of mine...for now.

    I always enjoy reading your blog, and the fact that you take time to respond to every comment. I appreciate the intelligent comments you have placed here.

    Charu: Interesting that you say that meeting new friends is difficult once you start working. It is true. School was the time for friendships. The work environment can lead to friendships but, as you know, there that whole issue of conflict of interest and professionalism. You tend to keep relationships professional, and not socialize. And even if you do, many of your coworker are - umm - not that interesting.

    Blogging gets you in touch with interesting people, but sadly, they are all over the world. Oh well, maybe we should travel more. I would love to go to Mumbai where you are because so many great bloggers are there. I would think there would be many great bloggers to meet there, but I cannot think of too many female ones (but I don't tend to look for them).

    I always appreciate the intelligent comments you have placed on my blog.

    Viv: Does blogging reveal the true inner persona. I think so, but I'm not sure. I think we may only see one dimension of it.

    Deba: I believe good writing needs an audience, just like good music. Now, blogging is seldom good writing. But my blog isn't a diary or scratch paper. It was meant to be read. And I am very appreciative if someone reads what I write and comments on it.


    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 7:45 PM  

  • Hey there,
    Wandered over from Ash's blog. Interesting topic. I have been blogging for close to 3 years now and have met up with several bloggers. In fact, we have regular bloggers' meet happening in Mumbai and Delhi.The first time we all met, it was a riot. It was like we knew each other (and there were over 30 of us :)) for ages.
    There are some phonies out there, but a little judgement and a healthy dose of trust, helps.
    chk out:
    thats the mumbai bloggers meet blog for you.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:27 AM  

  • Not really phony, but I cant find a reason to meet them in person actually. What for?

    By Anonymous assignment writing service, at 12:38 PM  

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