|Photo by Happy Batatinha via Flickr|
For years we corresponded, through the ups and downs. She was a couple years older than I, living with her mother and brother. Years hence, my mother had a meeting in Anaheim, not to far from where Stephanie lived, and I got to tag along. And we met for the first time in 10 years of having exchanged letters. But our friendship didn't end there. It only got stronger. In those years, long before the internet, two little girls connected with each other with only our words and nobody thought it strange at all. In fact, I remember people marveling at the fact that we had stayed in touch for so many years and how remarkable it was that we had finally met.
In the past year or so, I've cultivated a number of robust online relationships. Through this blog and Twitter, I've connected with a variety of people on a whole range of topics. The D.C. area is ripe with events for bloggers and tweeters and other ways to catch up with online people in "real life". But for some reason -- stigma, perhaps -- when I tell people that I've met friends online, it's not met with the same quaint enthusiasm as my third grade penpal -- even though the nature of the connection is quite similar. Two strangers, connecting over something they have in common using nothing more than written communication. The same way I connected with another little girl on the other side of the country nearly 30 years ago.
Stephanie and I are still in contact, though not often by pen on paper anymore. We're Facebook friends and exchange emails from time to time. For all the internet has given me, it's also taken some of the excitement out of it. No more going to the mailbox, anxiously waiting for a letter. Or waiting for the latest photos to arrive. In an instant, I can see what's new simply by checking out her profile and photos. And so it is with my new online friends . . . there's no delay. I can find out what's going on with the click of a mouse or the sending of a text. In fact, I expect it -- we all do. Yes, the internet has given us a lot . . . but there's a part of me that really misses some of what we've lost. I think I'll sit down tonight and write her a letter, just like old times, and hope I get one in return.