American in Spain

Friends I've Never Met

March 15, 2008

One year ago, today, some guy I had never met in Slovenia, who you all know as sgazzetti, left a comment on my blog. It was informative, funny, and knocked me down off my high horse, three qualities that I still admire in him, and in all friends generally. I checked out his blog, and found the most recent posts to be entertaining, so I subscribed to his RSS feed. Over the next few weeks, he left more comments at my blog, and I left some at his. It was so strange to me that, A) someone I'd never met would be interested enough in my ramblings to visit my blog every couple days, and B) that I might do the same for someone I'd never met. I'd never gotten to know someone via blogging before. There are two fundamental principles in blogging that enable what happened next. The first is that, when you leave a comment, you may optionally leave the url of your own blog. The second is that RSS makes it so easy to "subscribe" to a blog, which results in you getting notified whenever a new post is published. What happened was that I noticed that there were a dozen or so regulars that commented on sgazzetti's posts. Whenever a commenter struck me as particularly insightful, funny, or interesting, I could click on their link and go see that person's blog. Some of them seemed more interesting than others. I subscribed to the interesting ones and began reading them daily. Soon, I found that these people were coming to my blog and leaving comments as well. Later, I discovered that most of these people had never met each other either! They had all just gone through the same process I've described of starting a blog, finding or being found by another person via normal internet searches, and using the commenting and subscribing features of all blogs.

I now follow the lives of people in Minneapolis, Arlington, Brussels, and Slovenia Bulgaria. I'm subscribed to many more blogs than these, but this particular group is interconnected. Each of these people read and comment on each others' blogs. Sometimes these relationships even extend into the physical realm. I have sent and received packages to and from several of these blog friends. The most famous of these packages, of course, has its own blog.

If you had told me one year ago that I would actually feel some emotional attachment to complete strangers like this, I certainly wouldn't have believed it. And what's even more amazing is that these "virtual" friends really do scratch a social itch. The feeling is very much like that in my other friendships, it's just that we don't meet up on Saturday night for scheduled merrymaking. Obviously in real life friends are important too. Nothing illustrates that better than this comic.

Probably the most amazing culmination of this phenomenon is that some words that I wrote on this very blog resulted in one of my fellow bloggers, Simon, taking a trip across the Atlantic last weekend. Amazing.

I just thought I'd explain what's happened here in the last year, so that my friends and family, that actually have met me, can have some clue about who all these people are. When I was visiting the States last month, several people asked me, "Who is this 'spaghetti' guy that's always commenting on your blog?" Well, now you know.