When bloggers meet offline

Meeting the lovely Jan Hasak

I managed to catch up with fellow blogger Jan Hasak on her last night in Ireland. Jan is from California and is author of two books Mourning Has Broken: Reflections on surviving breast cancer and The Pebble Path: Returning home from a forest of shadows and is a previous guest blogger on JBBC. We only had a short time to meet up but we could have talked all evening – perhaps her kissing the blarney stone had something to do with it 🙂

Back in February 2010, I posed the question does the internet depress you?  This was in response to findings from a study that there was  “striking” evidence that some avid net users develop compulsive internet habits in which they replace real-life social interaction with online chat rooms and social networking sites.

This study reinforces the public speculation that over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction.

One sign of depression is this very desire to hide away from real life social interaction, so I would suggest that it is not the internet causing the depression, but that these individuals are already depressed. In fact, I would go so far as to say maybe it’s a good thing they at least have some interaction, even if it is virtual. However, I can also see how easy it is to slip into this situation of overly communicating online and sometimes we get caught up in online drama which possibly is not healthy for us.

It is still a source of amazement to me how quickly online friendships build and how much we care about these friends; something Feisty Blue Gecko captured perfectly in her latest post – cancer, internet and unexpected emotions. These friendships have sustained me through some dark times. When you reach out to someone online and let them know that you hear what they are saying and that you understand and care can offer enormous support, which should not be underestimated. This theme is also taken up in the latest Bringing Up Goliath post which tells a tale of two different types of friendship.

So, here’s to online friendships, and if you get the chance to meet offline, my advice is go for it. In meeting Jan, I discovered a gentler and sweeter person than I had imagined from reading her words on a screen. It certainly deepened my admiration and understanding of her.  Sometimes the danger is that we can get too reliant on communicating online and forget the old fashioned benefits of giving and receiving a real hug from new friends and reaching out to touch them in a substantive way.