Virtually Forever

At some point in this internet generation, you've either gotten warnings from your parents or given warnings as a parent about meeting internet personas. It is true that some people aren't what they seem online. You can quote the Rolling Stones one second and Plato the next thanks to the alt-tab that makes your knowledge seem so vast and intriguing. You can choose a subtly titillating nickname and conjure up images of yourself being a buxom babe while you really are a bald old man sitting in a dark room.
I have been fortunate in my making of "virtual" friends though. When I was working in Chicago back in '96, I took the bold step of staying with someone I never met, who had a different culture and was at a different place in her life. I took the train up to Milwaukee and stayed with someone I had known on IRC for years. I met her husband and two young boys. I lived in a typical American home. It was then I made my decision to study in the United States.
On the home front, I've come to know many very wonderful individuals who grew up with me, if you will. You see, as you progress up the educational ladder you lose friends who took different paths. When you change careers your colleagues become ex-colleagues. On the internet, the people you knew when you were 15 are the same people now when you're 30. Whether they're lawyers, doctors, homemakers, it doesn't matter. Just as the internet provides the cover of anomymity, it also strips away every title you've ever earned in real life: you are what you type. Nothing more, nothing less.
I went out with <a href="">Biscotti</a> yesterday. We went to Ikea to buy some furniture. For some odd reason or other I felt absolutely terrible when I arrived. It was as if my head were made of lead and my neck made of wax. The world was moving around me and my brain couldn't keep up. Add to that a headache that felt like my head was having a prolonged heart attack.
I'm used to being the strong one, but at that point you could have pushed me down with your pinky. It didn't help that I threw up all over Ikea's designer floor. Like the true virtual friend she was, she took care of me. I was the ultimate worst company anyone could ask for, but she saw beyond that.
So it's true that the internet is filled with people obsessed with your <acronym title="age, sex, location">ASL</acronym>, but there are others just interested in you. Not your job, not your accomplishments. Not what you can do for them. Just in the words you type. Who you are.

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