by Maria L. Trigos S. Gilbert

Time is a wonderful thing for all of us. We need time for everything, and there are some moments when we complaint for the lack of it, to do what we have the desires for in different opportunities. Yet friendship is something that needs all the time that it may get from both parts of some friends or acquaintances.

Since I started e-mailing and chatting in a weekly basis, I have understood the importance of letting time determine altogether with my efforts the way of a strong friendship or a nice acquaintance-ship may turn. Certainly we feel as if we have to do incredible things in order to have a real strong friendship, and hoping that an acquaintance-ship may become a friendship, for the time and effort given to it. Those variables or premises are matters of quality time and great effort.

Online friendship or acquaintance-ship is the mere reflection of our mind’s good attitude or particular attitude in a different style, but with the same sense of responsibility that the offline world may demand from us.

Exploring the Truth
Therefore, let us explore this question that I myself wrote in the article Two Worlds Embracing in this magazine, Go Inside. Does an online friendship replace a face to face friendship contact?

I truly will answer that question from my point of view and my own experience because I am a firm believer that we should not write of those things that we are not familiar with in whatever form those may be experienced or shaped. Of course, I once read in a writer’s magazine that writers are the best liars of the world.

I won’t say that writers are liars or are not so. Yet I do think that the more you know about something the better you write about it. So in each article that you read written by me, I assure you I will just write about those things that I have experienced or studied in one way or another. Therefore, I am taking this question very seriously, and with respect I will answer it for both of us, you and I.

The mighty truth is this: I haven’t found a single person online who would tell me that the online world has replaced the marvelous hugs, kisses, smiles, and gifts that the offline world brings to him or her. Neither I would replace an offline friend for an online friend, but surely I will combine both the best way I am able to. It is not a competition to see which friend is the best because certainly a friendship is a lot more than a championship. We are not friends to those who are special to us because they have things that we desire. If so happens, there is not such friendship!

Nevertheless, I have learned something about life in general from a History professor in Caracas, Venezuela. He said:

“María Luisa, people are always attracted to things and people that may offer them what they don’t have or admire. Even Christians love God, because He has promised them Heaven, He has told them in the Bible all kind of promises that will benefit them if they follow Him.”

I have thought about it for a long time, and I hate to say it, but his statement is super right! We like and love people for different reasons, and they also like and love us for other reasons, hopefully good ones!

Word Meanings Online and Offline
The online friendship is very exciting because there you have “to guess” a bit more what someone’s “silence” means. You find yourself constantly studying the meaning of the words. Online, words and punctuation seem to be more powerful than offline because there you are not paying attention to what someone wears or looks like in a given opportunity.

You really concentrate on the words the person writes to express how good or bad the day of that person has been. Online the distractions are narrowed if both parts show interest. You may be thinking that the same thing happens offline. Well, let me tell you that so is not true at all times because we all may have found ourselves or friends paying attention to something else or someone else except to us when we are talking about our day, life, spouse, work, or hobby.

To be honest the list goes on, but for a matter of narrowing things down to their maximums, I have just mentioned some of them. Dear reader, I will say you name it. It surely will fit in any category!

It gets quite funny or even a bit uncomfortable when one mentions an online friend to an offline friend. The world that you can touch and smell demands from you more information and foundation of such nontraditional relationships (friendships and acquaintances), and there you are standing alone without any proof, but a bunch of e-mails and chats that just you and the other receptor have been having.

The chats are gone; the e-mails are still there if you haven’t deleted them.

No wonder they think that you are nuts, including me as an insane in what the subject is concerned. Yet as I said since the start of this article, the point here is not trying to prove a thing to anybody. The point here is to feel good with whoever you are – online or offline. If they understand, it is wonderful, bless the Lord! If they don’t understand your online life, it is their problem. At the end they may have not been your friends after all!

Nevertheless, let us not rule the possibility out of hearing both parts, online and offline. Maybe your offline friend is trying to advise you about something that shouldn’t take place online or offline. My dear reader at the end you are the one who has the decision in your hands. You are the one who knows what is good and what is bad. So don’t look around for a marvelous answer falling from Heaven because it is within you!

Does One Type of Friendship Replace The Other?
Now, I have a good question that perhaps you may be wondering. “María Luisa, do you have offline friends?” Sure, I have offline friends. They are quite lovely. I will not say that I love and like them for what they will be in life. I love and like them for what they are. They are what they do!

If I were there with you, I would tell you almost bleeding once again why I love them. Since distance is not permitting us to get that “close,” I will tell you in this article what I mean by, “They are what they do.” We are human beings, hopefully. We know that we are not totally formed mentally and physically in a day. Time is the key word for all what we do. Time determines how far we have gone. I know I am sounding philosophical.

Now, believe me I am far from trying any philosophy in here. It is a matter of trying to communicate in the best way possible what my mind emanates like a nice blue crystal ocean. So yes, I do have offline friends. I am very happy to have them, and I think that they are very happy to have me. See? It is the assurance of having someone online and offline who will be there for you and you for them.

Let me refresh these question once again: Does an online friendship replace an offline friendship? The question is almost self-explanatory: I must answer this question once again:

Do you replace the dead?
Do you replace the one who moved to another city, state, or country?
Do you replace the one who is not able to make you feel better in “X” or “Y” for a matter of being sick?
Do you do any of those things?
My dear and very dear reader, then you have answered that big question. We may replace a pet or a thing, but people are irreplaceable. We don’t shop for someone, but with someone. Certainly, I will say that our sanity claims attention. Therefore, if someone tries to cheer up by clicking on a computer, it is not that the person is replacing someone.

There have been cases of people who think: “Hey, maybe this thorn is going to get better if I find a stronger and larger nail to take care of this tiny and painful thorn.” The ones with such reasoning find themselves involve in a mess. Yet honestly, I wouldn’t be surprise if it happens because people are not things.

We, as human beings, think and feel. People are the only ones on this earth that reason as far as I know. Because we think, we feel. So online or offline we must not play with those feelings and a lot less with someone else’s mind and feelings. If you are hurt by an online friend or an offline friend, clicking a computer or even pressing some telephone numbers will not solve the problem. If you have a thorn, and it hurts you. The only way for it to get out and by doing so get better is honesty and tenderness.

A Real Experience
I remember the first time I talked to an offline friend about another online friend. She just looked at me a bit intense. Then she said, “Oh, you have an online friend. Hum, interesting, may I know her or his name?” Calmly I said: “Sure, Rav in Australia.” Living in Monroe, LA makes all places almost unreachable, and with an amazed face and attitude she responded to the word Australia. For a moment I didn’t know if I said Mars, or if I said Australia, but either one showed the same effect on my offline friend.

Nowadays, she asks me about Rav just as if she has met my online friend for years. Rav is a very, and I mean a very busy person, but makes space to chat with me, to e-mail me, and so on. When Rav and I met, the posted message was the following: “Please, serious, clean, and nice chat – no games!”

I knew immediately Rav meant to be a nice friend because online we still aren’t able to escape what we are in a daily basis. Make note; we are what we do! Rav such a business person, a book person, a good family member, a good friend, and a lot more is there to say. Rav has taught me more than I would be able to express here today or tomorrow. Yet I have to say one thing: Rav, you are in my heart and mind. I do thank you from the very bottom of all my being!

The Flip Side
Now, let me flip the side of this coin. When I tell an online friend about an offline friend, he or she seems to be quite normal and okay with it. There is not such surprise because this online friend lives also the offline world. Therefore, he or she knows what I am talking about. There are times when something said may cause a light disturbance in a chat or a Net meeting, but promptly solved. One of my online friends about four months ago told me how bad things were going for him. Dear reader, those are the times when you want to fly like an eagle to make that person feel better.

Two weeks ago was my turn to tell an online friend how bad I felt with a terrible headache. She listed so attentively, offered me suggestions, and finally said: “I will pray for you María Luisa.” I have found such nice attitude and care super lovely. My husband taught me a famous and wonderful expression; perhaps you have heard it: “People don’t care how much we know, but how much we care.”

Wow, I am about to become speechless because no matter how many times I say it, write it, or think about it, it is still making a powerful effect in my mind, heart, and soul. I hope that if you haven’t heard it you will at least consider it now part of your way of living. Dear reader, the cases online or offline are the same; they don’t care how much we know, but how much we care!

I encourage you to read Two Worlds Embracing and Two Worlds Embracing (Part 2) which have been the two previous parts of this article. Nevertheless, you have read here a piece that stands for its own. I also encourage you to write me an e-mail. I am always super willing to respond to someone’s questions.

As my mother would say,

“Pretty much two eyes see all things, but four eyes see what was thought and what was missed. The same thing happens with one head. Two healthy and fine heads think faster than one.”

If I haven’t answered something that you may have thought important or just like to know about it, I am more than willing to take the time to e-mail you or answer your question in another article. I take this work seriously because I love doing it. You deserve my respect and consideration for taking the time to read this article and the previous ones if so you have done. Two Worlds Embracing will have a part IV. Let me tell you once again: Don’t miss it! There I will answer some other questions about online and offline friendships.

From this Venezuelan and half Spaniard woman, myself, I do thank you from this my desk in Monroe, Louisiana where I am living at the moment.

María L. Trigos S. Gilbert.