I made the mistake of explaining my current involvement in online social networking sites recently. The response from the adult in question, who has no problem shoving gaming down the collective throat, was that I obviously had no life. Forgive me if I snarkily disagree. It's a more wired/screen focused type of life but it's where I have developed a number of new close friendships and professional relationships and it has led to a number of IRL contacts.
I'm into my "adult" years (according to advertising categories). I've reached that point where friends aren't as easily come by after relocation. I'm not currently in any coursework where I might go to coffee with classmates and while I have some awesome coworkers, even we need some time away from each other. I wouldn't really consider myself an introvert but going to bars by myself has never particularly been my thing (and generally not that of most people I know) so I've moved more into meeting people in online communities. With such a wealth of people to be met through friends of friends and through hobbies, is it any wonder that many of us are doing the same?
Social networking has also allowed for regeneration of old friendships or to continue/supplement current or newer ones. Because of bizarre schedules and never knowing just what time zone the Brunette is in, I'm hesitant to call him when I usually think about him--which is usually between ten p.m. and midnight. It might be okay, or I might be interrupting the one night of sleep he really needs before an early morning in Florida. But when I see him in online chat we can catch up, in real time, without having to worry about interrupting each other. One of the editors I used to work for is in Alabama, which is a bit far for board game night, but we can Scramble our little hearts out on Facebook. And "old-fashioned" email is keeping me connected to a high school classmate currently deployed in Iraq.
I have friends all over the world who share my knitting and yarn fascination. It is to them I turn when I hit a snag in a project, need inspiration, or just feel like jumping into a debate that to pursuers of other hobbies, sounds amazingly trivial. Alongside the conversations comes notes about each others lives and it is incredibly difficult to separate yourself or to not care. We cheer each other on whether it be a knitting or other triumph and share sorrows and grief. When you are connected one way, it is easier to find other connections in life.
Such of course is not to devalue the new friends I do meet locally nor the friends I see only in person. Having face to face interaction is one of the best way I like to spend time with my friends. On a recent trip, I checked email once in four days, perfectly content to let the online world take care of itself while I immersed myself in the people I was with. While I probably missed a few things, as I would if I missed a night out with friends, I could browse through and catch up on details when I got back. So while it may not be a life some would espouse, it is a full and pretty rewarding one. And it means there's usually someone up for a chat when the insomnia kicks in yet again.