Gone Is The Internet Age of The Pen-Pal.

I had someone contact me out of the blue recently (see comments on previous post) and thought it quite amazing. Especially since I don’t appear to get much traffic on my blog (not that I’m looking, it can be great to know you are almost totally anonymous with this thing, but feel there is SOMEONE listening). It made me reminisce for the lost art of the Internet pen-pal. 

In the heady, early days of the Internet (invented many moons ago, but saw me on in 1997), there was no Facebook or My(gay)space. The people you met on the Internet tended to be people you didn’t know. I was the only person in my family to be on the Internet for about 2-3 years. And I was still living in Oz at the time, so there was no need to “keep up-to-date” with my family online. The people I met in these early days were all strangers, including Em. Back then, you seem to go on the Internet to meet new people. Have a new way of making pen-pals that didn’t involve putting a little spiel in a magazine and hope that 2 months later you’d get some response. People put their email addresses on pen-pal sites and met that way.

Nowadays, it seems you need to know all the people on the Internet first. Like with social networking. OK, you can poke someone randomly, and they may add you to their friend list, but it never steps beyond that. The only real interaction you have with people on Facebook or Gayspace (in my experience) is with people you ALREADY know. Friends and relatives. That’s great if you live vast distances from them (great for me, I live in the UK, my family are in Australia), but it wasn’t the initial intent I had for my use of the Internet nearly 11 years ago now. Of course I want to keep in touch with my family. That’s not what I’m implying. I just wish I could continue to meet new people as well.

I wanted it to meet NEW people. To get to know people from all round the world. I met one fantastic person as a result (Em) and we are still together all these years on. I made some other pen-pals as well, but you just end up losing contact with these people. I always feel my life is not anything particularly special, so I find it hard to keep pen-pals. I never know what to write and think people will get bored with me, so after a while I just never bother to reply. Or I just lose track of people. I’ve had a pen-pal for about 10 years now. He lives in another part of the UK. He emailed me around Xmas time. I said in an email that I’d respond to his email to me in more detail once Xmas was dealt with. Well, it’s now May, and I never did send that “more informative” email.

But I digress. The short end of the story is, I got my hopes up with this person. I was dubious at first that the post was just a ploy to promote their own blog, but considering the amount of traffic I get for my blog, that seemed HIGHLY unlikely. This person seemed really nice and genuine, and so I replied in the hope that we’d establish a rapport, get to know each other, and become pen-pals (or e-pals). I was SSSOOO looking forward to establishing a friendship. But lo and behold, nothing happened. Perhaps my email went to her spam box? Perhaps she’s even more like me than I imagined, and just can’t be arsed to reply? Perhaps I am INDEED so boring that she gave up after 1 email? I mean, if I can’t even get my partner to tear herself away from a computer screen to spend some time with me, what hope do I have?

So, perhaps I’ll just continue to use my blog, like I did my diaries when I was a teenager. An invisible friend. Someone (something) to air my feelings to. I just wish I had that return banter sometimes…


4 thoughts on “Gone Is The Internet Age of The Pen-Pal.

  1. Aaawww, Subgirl, you make me feel all guilty now :-(I wasn’t trying to attack you or anything, just my girlie anticipation getting the better of me. Patience has never been one of my virtues (if I have ANY virtues).My reply to your reply is being constructed as we speak, but hence my partner is making a silent plea for the Internet back, so it’s probably going to be a work in progress.

  2. Eek! :)I didn’t intend to be a disappearing “strafe” commenter.I did, in fact, receive your email, but did very like what you did to your pen pal and said I’d get to it just as soon as… and life kind of stepped in.I generally check emails and journals and things from a laptop, which was on loan to us by my fiance’s job, but he up and found another job and quit that one in the span of a week and, well, excuses excuses, but I’ve not really been able to be online.Regardless, I actually feel the same way you do about the internet, the vast majority of friends that I “keep up with” now on the internet are ones that I met originally by hunting out new people in the “early days” of the net. It’s rare these days that we step outside our normal friend-networks (livejournal, facebook, myspace, etc.) to actually make NEW networks.I’ll let you know now, though, that despite being obnoxiously chatty, I can definitely have long periods of no contact. Mostly because I’m flaky.Now I’m officially going to reply to your email. 🙂

  3. Thanks for your comment. I never set out to have a blog to make friends and I don’t expect comments on my blogs, nor am I in the mood to post regularly most of the time. It was just the spontaneity of the comment seemingly offering the hand of friendship that ended up going nowhere that disappointed me. I’m happy for my blog to be a place that gets little traffic. And I tend not to read other people’s blogs, or leave comments, ‘cos I’m selfish that way. I don’t think you’d gain friends from leaving comments on other people’s blogs anyway. And the whole blog reading/leaving comments feels a little under-handed to me anyway, ‘cos people just want to advertise their space at the end of the day (damn! I hate that phrase). I think I’ll just leave it to experience.

  4. I think (hope) that it is OK to leave an anonymous comment to say something supportive? Everyone has their ups and downs about blogging, particularly when you are first setting out with a new blog and have few readers. If you are blogging with the idea of making new friends, then I would strongly advise you to put yourself about a bit. Get out there and comment on other people’s blogs, don’t just lurk about on your own one hoping they will come to you. Maybe you do that already? There are, in my experience, lots of wonderful people out there only too keen to find someone new with whom to have a bit of comment box banter. I guess the thing with blogging is that you need to find the right sort of blogs. Some people only blog because they love to write, or to keep in touch with a particular group of people – and are not terribly bothered about comments, or ones from new people. So it is a bit hit and miss and you need to develop a bit of a thick skin about it. Plus you need to find people with a similar outlook and sense of humour. It all takes time. Hopefully this friend you had hoped you had found, will see your latest post and it will shake them out of what is possibly only forgetfulness or “I’ll do it tomorrow”ness and they will get in touch. Maybe you should email them again just incase your mail went astray.But don’t lose heart. Blogging can be a great way to meet people and not just that – it is a lot of fun in the process. And writing, even if few people read, is valuable in itself for sorting out things that might otherwise just whizz around interminably in your head.

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