my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?


Yesterday I opened my gmail to look for emails from a favorite scent reviewer ... there was one (yay!) AND there was also an official looking email from a research professor at a small college in Iowa ... seeking data on women's online relationships.

This was interesting. I took the provided survey -- which attempted to gauge the depth/ breadth of online relationships compared and contrasted to "real life" (what's that? Kind of like a land line) relationships.

I'm betting a lot of my fellow bloggers will be getting that email and we'll all get an opportunity to assess for ourselves how important the cyber-relationship has become to us.

For me, extremely important. In completing the survey, I realized I have one intimate "real life relationship" and eight (!) intimate cyber-relationships with women. All those relationships have become emotional cornerstones for me.

Each is important to me in their own way ... their personalities are all so different. Most of the relationships have grown over a period of years -- beginning with interaction on a perfume board.

I've learned some of the things that gratify them, their aspirations, aggravations, fears, obstacles. They know mine. They're located all over the world ... and I find I get edgy if a week goes by and I don't at least read their blog, or send/receive an email checking in.

The perfume board that germinated these relationships is an interesting story, too. One of three primary outlets for people interested in scent, it is a source of entertainment and dismay.

In the three years I've belonged, I've learned a great deal about fragrance ... many of the posts were tutorials in fragrance definition and content.

Sadly, to me, that board has also become the weeping board and off-topic playground for a few incredibly self-centered individuals who -- and I'll never understand this -- reveal exhaustive details (usually boring, sometimes high drama) of their lives ... and go to the extent of asking for advice about what they should have for lunch, how they should get their hair cut, what dress they should wear for a specific function, and how they can begin/maintain/end an affair/relationship/hookup. This must be part of sorority life I missed out on. And why I wouldn't have cut it in that environment.

As a venue for online relationships, apparently one of the other two boards is also having a period of flux. Recent changes in the board's subscription framework, which included demotion of a certain class of posters who proudly wore the badge of "most excellent perfume maven" (I made that up) has resulted in pages of back-and-forth on what the board means to them, what their contributed content is worth, how much their input is valued versus the board host's commercial objectives.

A point is made in that back and forth that illustrates what can be a nebulous quality of a cyber-relationship: you can get so caught up in what you believe the relationship to be that, without feedback, you may find that you are very mistaken about what the relationship actually is:

You saw yourself as a valued contributor, providing substantive content ... the board ownership sees you as another click, another number that can be used to acquire sponsorship from which they derive financial benefit. You got emotionally hooked in somebody else's commercial venture.

This is where I think my cyber-relationships are different. In growing them outside the commercial structure of the board that germinated them, they have become truly personal. We are much more to each other than a click on an advertising link.

I'm looking forward to the results of the study -- I believe it is attempting to find out whether true intimacy can be found in a cyber-relationship. My answer would be yes. But the confounding aspect of cyber-commercialism doesn't seem to have been factored into that equation. Maybe it should have been.


Blogger NowSmellThis said...

M, sort of off-topic (ironically enough) but curious to know if your online friendships have an offline component as well, that is, do you meet or talk on the phone? What I have found is that otherwise, the friendship sort of fizzles out eventually. Perhaps I am just an inadequate correspondent, but the only lasting friendships I've made online really got cemented over the phone.

10:31 AM

Blogger mireille said...

R, because I just hate to talk on the phone, that hasn't been a strengthener for me. I have appreciated meeting a couple of people irl, but most of the relationships are email-based. xoxo

11:17 AM

Blogger Bela said...

I don't like talking on the phone either (used to but got fed up with people thinking they could have 4-hour-long conversations with me during the day because I was a freelance and therefore supposed to be available) so I communicate via email these days.

I agree with you totally, M. About the importance of cyber-relationaships and about the board. It used to be such fun and so stimulating as well. :-(

11:24 AM

Blogger mireille said...

I'm adding a comment from Marta because she can't get into blogger for some reason:

The on-line friendships are a lifeline to me right now because I'm so busy with children and work that it can take me two weeks to meet for a quick coffee with my best friend IRL.

I don't think there's anything evil or necessarily "less" in on-line relationships. I compare many of mine to the sort of "general friendship" that I have with, say, the moms of the children in my children's classes. Sometimes one of them becomes a serious friend, and we meet (when we can) and share a lot of our lives. The rest are good, too. It's nice to have casual friends for finding out where to get a haircut or who's having a sale or just to commiserate about the craziness of life.

My on-line friends fall into the same camps. I'd say three or four are serious friends, people I *would* want to talk to on the phone (if they like that) and would travel to meet and hope they will be my friends for a long long while.

And then their are tiers of people I trade quips with now and then or share info with. I like them, too, and I'm glad to have them in my life.

12:11 PM

Blogger Urban Chick said...

ooh, that research sounds really interesting

you know what? i've just moved home (geographically speaking!) and i'm finding it really hard being 450 miles from my friends BUT what has remained a constant is my cyber-friendship

i can log in from anywhere, any time and 'be' with my cyber-friends and that really has helped me

it also helped immensely through some hard times in recent years: the internet is a wonderful tool for bringing together people with a shared experience instantaneously and i really would have found life much much harder without it, no question

also, i have lost count of how many people i have met IRL through the internet

and what depresses me is what you read in the mainstream media (in the UK, at least) about the internet: it always focusses on the negative stuff (porn and paedophilia) - so sad, when it has come to provide a sense of community in a positive sense for so many people


p.s. hi, you!

2:00 PM

Blogger mireille said...

It's so good to see you here! And I'll check your blog for more about your new home! ♥ xoxo

2:08 PM

Blogger mamiesb said...

I hope that the board is merely in a temporary state of flux. There was a point, for instance, where it felt decidedly mean-spirited in nature -- it seems less so now.

At any rate, I do consider cyber-relationships worthy and am grateful for them, regardless of their constantly varied and varying natures.
Peace -- M

7:32 PM

Blogger Lulu said...

Blogging is a bit freer of the commercial side so far, isn't it?

I value the opportunity to 'meet' people I would never link with in real life - all the different ages, social groups, countries. The diversity is important because no one friend can ever be in tune with all parts of one's life; the person you turn to for a bracing pep talk isn't the same person you want financial advice from, or emotional support, or health advice. Having cyberfriends means it's much easier to find someone who might have gone through something you are experiencing, from house moves to bereavement.

It's also much easier to handle in a busy life - a quick email is usually possible and doesn't involve spending hours getting dressed up and travelling!

9:49 AM


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