What’s better: Cyber Friends or Real World Friends? There’s only one way to find out…wriiiiiiiiiiiite!

Dad Finalist

Before I was made redundant and my wife and I swapped roles nearly two years ago, blogging and Twitter were just words I’d heard, not tools of communication.

Even though I was a magazine executive, and had been for many years, they had passed by my allegedly fine-tuned radar.

Even email seemed impersonal: prone to misunderstanding, time-consuming, not immediate enough for the ebb and flow of a good old session of Putting The World To Rights.

I was a Let’s Meet For Beers After Work type of bloke, be it with my colleagues or the people I was lucky enough to count as Lifelong Friends.

The phone and face-to-face were my tools for making and keeping up with friends.

And then I became a housedad and lost my confidence…and with it, my physical connection with the outside world.

Keeping up with mates turned from a waterfall, to a weir, to a stream, to a trickle, and then eventually, a drought-baked riverbed of incommunicado.

Instead, I became a blogger, and a Tweeter (but never a Facebooker – that’s a bridge too far). These activities gave me a sense of purpose – a goal, in terms of challenging myself to write a post a day; contact and support, via the comments and feedback; and new friendships, via the common interests one finds and shares on Twitter.

But a couple of weeks ago, I thought: ‘What am I doing with my life? I don’t know these people. I’ve never met them; have no idea what they look like; have no idea who they really are. They’re not my friends. How can they be?’

I craved the physical contact I used to have when I was a Working Man, where body language, a look in the eye, a raised eyebrow, a nuanced smile, revealed far more in a person than 140 characters, or a short, snappy, albeit supportive, comment ever could.

But I’d deliberately excluded myself from such intercourse. I stopped accepting invitations, made excuses not to travel across town for a catch-up over a Doombar or three.

Partly, this was because I felt embarrassed by my circumstances. All my Real World friends, bar none, were successful in the terms by which I measured success: they had jobs. Good jobs.

What was I? A housedad. I had nothing to say to them any longer. All I knew was cooking and cleaning and collecting kids from school and playdates. I felt less than them, and so I threw myself into cyberlife and happily existed there.

But a couple of weeks ago, I realised that I did have something to say, something to offer: my pride in  being a full-time dad to my stepdaughter and two sons.

So I set out to re-connect with my past. I got back in touch with the friends I’d excluded myself from and arranged a flurry of beers, and suffered a pounding cacophony of hangovers.

And do you know what I ended up talking about? This blog, the people I have met through this blog, the people I have come to know, respect and enjoy via Twitter.

Which is when the penny dropped: my cyber friends are as real as the ones I have in the physical world.

My identity is fundamentally intertwined with my existence here, in these posts, and there in 140 characters, and in those other places, most notably the pubs where I see the Real Worlders.

The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive; the two can co-exist. The two are as real as each other, albeit in different ways.

The moral of this story, dear readers – as you will have already gathered – is that Balance Is The Key.

But also, that the two worlds do not have to be kept separate. To prove that point, many of my Real World Friends are now subscribing to my blog and following me on Twitter.

And in one month’s time, I will be meeting my Cyber Friends at the BritMumsLive conference, where I hope they will become Real World Friends, too.






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12 Responses to What’s better: Cyber Friends or Real World Friends? There’s only one way to find out…wriiiiiiiiiiiite!

  1. Won’t be meeting you at Britmums Live. Too far to travel. But happy to share a Doombar at any time you choose. I could even take you to the brewery as it’s not so far from where I live in sunny Cornwall :-)

    • keithkendrick

      Oh wouldn’t that be lovely. My local has just discontinued it because it’s too expensive to buy. Short-sighted idiots.

  2. Remember we need to have a pint! I have several real life friends now due to the cyber world, indeed my husband is a prime example of how it can work. (not Internet dating before you suggest that)

  3. As someone who met their husband online via a dating website I couldn’t agree more. Gutted I won’t be at BritMums Live to meet you Keith – one day…one day I promise. Until then I’ll return to the newborn nappies and night feeds 😉

  4. If you’re ever in Bristol let me know, Doom Bar and similar are in no shortage here and I’m all for meeting my internet acquaintances in the real world.

  5. Years ago people had pen friends and they corresponded for years, lifetimes even. I feel I know my online friends well enough to know that if we were to meet we’d like each other and if we lived close by we’d be real friends. However, I agree with you that you do need the balance.

  6. Well Keith I shall have no problem in accepting a Doombar from you and escaping from all those scary mummy bloggers at Britmums live :)

  7. I have really made some great friends online. I like to think we would get on in real life as well, but who knows! At least you will be putting this to the test very soon.

  8. Fascinating post. I’m fairly new to Twitter and still sometimes baffled by its attractions, but I find I’m more thrilled by a personal tweet from a stranger than a phone call from a friend. Like you I’m mainly house-based and a portal onto a wider world as one types in solitude is seductive. And even tweets alerting us all to the fact that someone who’ve never heard of has dropped a chocolate raisin or is contemplating a shower can be as fascinating as peering through people’s lighted windows from trains. Since I’ve never met ant of my followers or following, though, I regard them more as pleasant company than real friends.

  9. Thanks for another great post Keith – mine is a similar story. I think there’s a lot to be said for the social interaction online and this may account for blogging’s popularity and appeal to new mums and dads – especially those who have had to deal with really challenging changes like redundancy or bereavement alongside the arrival of their newborn. I really wish I’d known how easy and rewarding blogging was when the Little Chap was born. We all had a challenging start to his life and it may have eased the burden a bit to write about it at the time. Who knows? You’re right about the balance though – it definitely has to be a “part” of your life, not all of it I think.

  10. I just look at it this way Keith. No way in the world would I have ever got to meet a geezer like you who cooks better than Heston himself. If the only way is in cyberworld, so be it. My life is so much richer having met you and on another note, world’s are colliding Keith. World’s are colling! (I know you’ll know what that means! LOL)

    Anne xx

  11. Very much looking forward to meeting you in person at Britmums. It will be such a pleasure to take the piss out of you in person rather than just online :)