Ms Melancholy writes eloquently – she always writes eloquently – of the unexpected joys of blogging friendships. She ponders on the difficulties of making relationships using only the written word: “We rely so much on non verbals to aid our understanding of the other. A tone of voice, a slight look of shyness, a feeling of insecurity that silently passes between us, a teasing smile that indicates I was only joking really. With the written word we have only our words and our unconscious self to play clever tricks on our minds.”
This set me to reflecting on the importance of establishing mutually comfortable distances in relationships. So often, people complain that their partner in the relationship is too close, or too far away. We all have our preferred ‘personal space’. Some people feel claustrophobic in a crowded lift or underground carriage; others enjoy huddling close together, even with strangers.
Personally, I like not to be closer than about three feet from someone I am conversing with [unless I wish to embrace them]. When – as some do – they move closer and thrust their faces uncomfortably close towards mine [it’s usually the spitters who tend to do this!] I back gently away so that if the conversation starts in the middle of the room I end up with my back against the wall.
This feeling of being potentially smothered, or else abandoned by a too-remote partner, is an important factor in the ‘precious ruptures’ which Ms Melancholy talks about in both real-life and blogging relationships. If people don’t feel comfortable about their mutual space, one or both of them tends to sheer off. The benefit of blogging is that in one sense the Internet eliminates distance – it doesn’t matter whether I am in London and the person I am blogging with is in the next street or in Finland, Canada, or the Canaries, it’s possible to feel comfortable or uncomfortable with the relative space we have established between us. But, as Ms M says, the inability to see and respond to the other’s non-verbal signals can quite easily lead to misunderstanding. I can think of two or three occasions when I have got at cross-purposes with a blogging friend because we were unable to see each other’s facial expressions.
And the physical absence of an old friend with whom you are exchanging cyber-messages can sometimes be painful – especially when you haven’t seen them for some considerable time, and long to give them a hug. The beauty of blogging is that you can give and receive lots of metaphorical hugs over the Internet, and create warm, friendly places like the burrow Snug where your cyber-friends are always welcome and, one hopes, feel at home.