by María L. Trigos S. Gilbert

I remember my father’s words, and I don’t like them. “Darling, my very darling, you better learn and learn well because I will not last forever on this earth.” Those words were so simple and almost a cliché coming from an older person, specially from a father or from a mother. I think that sons and daughters have heard those words in one time or another as so I did when my father told me so.

I was pretty young, perhaps eight or nine years old. Boy, oh boy, ask me if I was traumatized by my father’s words, well, I was about to be. Yet somehow I understood that the man, my father, was right. I had two options: I could cry like a baby, or I could take it as a mature child. I guess that I took it as a mature child. Deep inside I started praying something like this, “God, don’t listen to my father; he doesn’t know what he is saying. You know that I need him. He also needs me, forever and forever.” Nowadays, I live far away from my father. In order to see him, I have to take at least two or three airplanes. The hazard is great, but the joy of seeing him is much greater. That’s a fact! Yet, how can we have a strong relationship with someone that perhaps is not so meaningful to us?

Not So Meaningful Relationships
How do we communicate to a full extent with those whom we like for what they write on an email, chat, or a Internet microphone talk? How do we keep in touch? How do we let them know that we care? It gets worse; how do we know that they care? How do we know that they are meaningful online friends and not just a playing time, fun time? People in life are like this, “Faces we see; hearts we don’t.” Hard saying, isn’t it? I think so! In my first article from this series, Two Worlds Embracing, I posted there some questions, and one of them is the following:

Is an online friendship short or long lasting term relation? Hum, good question…well, if we think about it, it is almost like asking if a marriage is a long or a short lasting relation. What do you think? Hey, I have learned from my own experience that marriage is a two way street…It takes two! Have you heard that song that says, “It takes two?” I have heard it, and I believe that yes, it takes two for things to happen, and for them to stay together. I don’t think of life like a lottery ticket. I rather think of it like a way of being, and by doing so creating and shaping creation.

Gold Finders
More likely we are like gold: pure, unshaped, bright, attractive, powerful. Hum, I know that the word powerful may have thrown you off. Gold is so because we have given it a value, and an expensive value. Yet there are different kinds of gold: 10k, 14k, 18k, 24k, 28k…Do you get the picture? I think you do and very well.

Therefore, it is the same with online friendships; there is a bit of everything on the Net. We should act at all times like gold finders, seeking for the real good gold and making it all sort of wearable jewelry. It is hard to find good online friends, and more likely faithful online friends because we don’t have the opportunity of seeing them as so we do with our offline friends. Having an online friend requires a great self discipline, love, and respect, and I mean it in that specific order! Friendly relations and romantic relations have been said to be a sort of chemistry, magic, and work. I vote for work!

Open Doors
Certainly I won’t deny that there is not a bit of chemistry at first because indeed it seems to be so, but it goes beyond chemistry and magic powers. When a door is open, we should take the right amounts of steps to enter into that open space that perhaps have been selected for us. Furthermore, we must have our eyes and minds wide open to match that open door which promises a fine possibility among you and whoever it might be. Those are the way of knowing how important we are, and how important the other people are in our lives. Interacting with other people gives us the right idea of how serious we are taking an online friendship and vice versa. I love this saying, “People don’t care how much you know, but how much you care.”

Online friendships may be long if there is some effort put it into them. Otherwise, they fall apart very easily because the only chance to interact is by writing or Net talking. The fascinating part of an online friendship is that you don’t have to pretend if you love honesty. There you should be yourself because the whole idea is getting away of those trivialities that we live in a daily basis. The more attention you give to your online friendship; the better it gets because we are pretty much human beings who respond to stimulus. If you give a fine and clean stimulus, you will get the same response. The contrary is sickness in one’s soul; then you ought to back off for your sake and the sake of the other person whose response is not adequate.

My Online Friends
I have wonderful online friends; they are meaningful to me. I know they care for me because I care for them. When we doubt of the nice care that should take place in an online friendship, it is because we are not giving what we should give. We are at all times needing attention and respect; therefore, we should give nice attention and respect in order to get what we expect from others. The contrary is sickness, and more likely we should check our inside: Heart, mind, and soul. My online friends perhaps know me so well that at times, even though I write, “Oh, I am just fine…What about yourself?” They know that perhaps I am not fine. I may be tired or a bit blue. Then, when I get a second chance to say what bothers me or has me tired, I write the truth. It is not a matter of writing something for sympathy; it is a matter of writing or telling the truth because I expect the same thing from them.

We won’t have a long lasting online friendship if we are not honest, if we don’t care for them and for the friendship in itself. I have made appointments to chat with some of my friends, but the time differences have gotten on me. I have fallen asleep, and then I have to write a true email or snail mail to apologize. It feels good saying the truth! There have been times when they are the ones who have fallen asleep. Yet there are different situations: Sickness, work, family, and events. The only way for an online friendship to survive is to understand that we have a life besides an online life. Our offline life demands great attention from us. I am 100% for it; we must pay close care and respect to what goes in our lives, besides online friends and “virtual” worlds in general.

Online Limitations
Let me give you some of my own online experiences. I have an online friend whose name is S. Mercer. She is a true friend; we have been emailing, chatting, snail mailing, telephoning, and so on for over a year. We know each other very well to the extend that when we call each other over the phone, we well know if we have been sleeping, computing, working, or just hanging around. Isn’t it neat? I think so. We are so similar, but so different. She is from the USA while I am from Caracas, Venezuela with a mixture of Spaniard blood and culture. When I am not thinking right, there she is to tell me how wrong I am. It gets better. Ha, ha. When she is not thinking right, I am there to tell her how wrong she is.

It is interesting how close we can get to someone who indeed we haven’t met face to face. We both understand that an online friendship has its limitations and that we have husbands, jobs, school work, and hobbies. Yet we don’t fight for having things to do that really matter to us. On the contrary, we encourage each other to do our best at all times, and as we say, “Hey, if you are going to misbehave, call me up.” It is a funny saying to us, but it is just a recommendation to behave the best we are able to. It is a very neat concept.

Online Friendships Are Not Easy
I remember the movie, “As Good As It gets,” as a great movie. Don’t you think? What I like about that movie is the thought that we are not perfect. We try, but it is the try that tells us that perfection comes by trying, not by the lack of mistakes. In “As Good As It Gets” there is a man who drives people crazy, who practically refuses to say a nice thing to anyone. Yet necessity comes along, and he has to get out of his way in order to act nice toward people. Then people realize that the man really cares. He tells the woman that he falls in love with that he has an illness, obsessive compulsive. Wow, it is a very hard illness to deal with because it is very compulsive…ha, ha, ha…But indeed I am honest it must be a very hard illness to deal with and a very difficult person to be around with. Yet it seems to me that love is like a rocket. When the rocket is launched, there is nothing that can stop something in a mighty speed.

Then it is the same with true friendship or romantic love. There we are at home having someone that we may talk to without any kind of fences because there are not monetary interests, nor intellectuality. Yet we understand that our brains should work very well in order to have a fine online friendship because the opposite is going to give us a very hard time. Then impossibility will knock at our doors, and not necessarily to enter, but to get out! I know this last sentence is kind of hard, but truthful, my dear reader. Yet I haven’t said that an online friendship is easy. It is not so at all; nevertheless, the advantages of it are many if we are very attentive to them all!

Looking Into The Mirror
One of my good offline friends is pretty creative and complex, so I remember that one day I was teaching him a Venezuelan saying that says, “Nos vemos en el espejo.” He asked me to please explain the saying to him. I translated it, “We see each other in the mirror.” Certainly it still didn’t make a bit of sense to him. Once again I tried to explain it to him, saying that it really means, “See you later.” Suddenly he stopped and said to me, “María, when we see ourselves in a mirror, we see what we want. Yet when a friend sees us, he/she truly tells us what he/she sees in us, and not what we want to hear or see.” Hum, a full mouth, don’t you think?

He has taught me so much since I met him that I am not able to compile all his teachings in a paragraph. His teachings are so important in my life that I have understood what I may want to do or wouldn’t do for all the money in this life. Isn’t it interesting? I think so! Of course, I have my own mind, thoughts. Yet what I read, hear, watch…I give those things at least a thought. There I discover parts of me and parts of this world. The more we interact with each other online or offline, the better chances we have to develop a true and nice friendship with our potential wonderful friends.

Nevertheless, let us not forget that, besides family, work, and hobby, there are times when we just demand space. It is not a matter of being busy, but being alone when we need so! We should respect it at all times. There have been times that I tell my online friends how much “free” time I have been having. Yet I have been taking advantage of it just to be alone, and do the things I want or simply nothing. If they respect my feelings as much I should respect theirs, I do think that our online friendship should last as long as we want it to because the ingredients are there to have a beautiful relationship, friendship.

We must remember that we are not objects; we are human beings. We are differentiated from other animals for the facts that we feel and think. Then if so is true, let us not show differently. It would cost us a second thought…ha, ha. Therefore, because we think and feel, that is why we should consider and treat each other as the most fragile, but powerful beings on earth. If there are other powerful beings that think and feel, let me know about them! I know that there are some people who have told me how much his/her dog has talked to him/her. I won’t say that it hasn’t or that it has. What scares me is to see someone treating a dog better than a human being, at times I know that they deserve a fantastic treatment because they are there no matter what!

Yet let us be honest; we are not dogs that can eat over and over the same thing day after day, that always understands how busy its owner is. It is so faithful at all times, even though the owner forgot to clean and fill the water bowl. If we were so understanding as dogs are, I tell you what…we wouldn’t have a single war or divorce among spouses and friends. I know that now you are giving this a thought. I am very glad if so you are doing because I am telling you the truth! So once again, an online friendship should last “forever” if forever you would live and so does your online friend. Does it sound reasonable? I know it sounds impossible to have something to last forever.

Well, most of the people are hoping and working on an out-of-earth life. The scientists go to other planets and the spirituals pray for paradises. Whatever your thoughts may be, my thoughts are that while I am among the living, let me do what I want and shall. Then what comes after it, is a matter of time. Be sure to let your online friends and offline friends know much you care and respect them! If you tell them so, it is a true beginning to have a long online or offline friendship. Yet as I told you, an online friendship requires a lot of self discipline, love, and respect. You must not forget them. If it so happens, start praying and acting to remedy what is broken and almost gone. Don’t let it go while you are still breathing. Revive the other friend, and do it with joy and sincerity!

Let me give you all my respect and consideration for taking the time to read this article. I thank you!

From my brain-heart to yours,

María Luisa Trigos S. Gilbert J