There’s been a bit of discussion going around for the last few days about online friendships. Most of the talk has been between Belghast and Braxwolf, with Bel writing that he treats online friends the same as offline friends and Brax doubting that online friendships can have the same depth as those found offline.
I have strong opinions on this topic!
Twitter sucks at depth
Brax’s post in particular seems to focus on Twitter as the primary avenue of online socializing, and how poorly it does in that role. And in this case I think Brax is totally correct because Twitter is absolutely terrible at in-depth communication. It’s also, I would argue, not what it was designed to do.
Twitter is a constant stream of information. Tweets are fairly impermanent — while a tweet does exist in archived form, as they slide down the front page of our Twitter clients we become less and less likely to read them. Trying to keep up with your Twitter stream at all times is not how it was intended to be used, and will probably just make you feel frantic and perpetually left behind. I found that I enjoyed the network much more when I accepted that lots of stuff would be said while I was away from a screen, and that’s okay.
Twitter is really great for meeting people with similar interests. It’s a great medium for telling funny jokes. It’s a really good way to get a general survey of impressions, and catch breaking news from around the world. Twitter was invaluable to me during the Ferguson protests, for example, because I was able to listen to a number of people who were on the ground and get first-hand information.
On the other hand, 140 characters on Twitter is not a great way to form deep friendships. I agree with Brax there.
Other online methods of communication do not suck at depth
I think Brax’s post did a disservice to online friendships by focusing on Twitter when there are a myriad of other alternatives that people use every day.
For example, for the last 5 years I’ve spent almost every workday hanging out in an IRC channel with the same half dozen-ish people. Some days we have a lot to talk about, from politics to travel plans to how to best get stains out of a carpet. Other days we just say hi and complain about the local weather. A few of these people I have never met in person, although some I have. I have never even seen a photo of one of these people! And yet this group is contained in my “inner circle” of friends. If any one of these folks needed me to inconvenience myself to help them out, I would do so without hesitation.
As for the concept that we can never really know someone from only their online communication… well, that’s just not true. Not to pick on Brax, but he doesn’t share a lot about his offline life and just from reading his blog and listening to his podcasts I can tell that he’s literate, kind, reliable, community- and family-minded, likes gadgets, and we both enjoy writing and playing MMOs. Those are pretty darn good qualifications for being my friend, and I would think the same whether I met him online or offline. Best buddies? Of course not! But a friend for sure.
And that’s not even getting into non-text communication. Guilds often spend hours together talking via voice chat, and YouTube has had the greatest growth of any social network, particularly among the younger demographics. I not only type at my online friends, I listen to their podcasts and watch their videos. I have Hangouts with them where we play tabletop games together, and follow their Spotify playlists of music that’s important to them.
You get what you give
So how do Brax and I disagree so much on the potential depth of online friendships? After much pondering, I think it’s safe to say that you get out of your online friendships what you feel prepared to put into them. Some people are totally satisfied with their offline friendships and aren’t really interested in doing the same online for whatever reason. And that’s perfectly okay!
Others, such as myself and Bel (I assume), actively look to develop online friendships. We write about our lives on our blogs, we worry about people on Twitter when they sound sad. We reach out over different media to people, and we feel kinship with folks who we encounter online and meet our individual requirements for basic friendship. (Similar interests, smarts, and a kind nature in my case.)
All in all, I disagree with the idea that online friendships cannot achieve the same depth as offline friendships. It seems more accurate to me to say that some people are not looking for depth in their online friendships, and therefore it does not exist for them. And that’s totally, absolutely fine, to each their own and yadda yadda, but those two are not the same thing.
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This week Liore, Ellyndrial, and Arolaide are full of shame. Well, sort of. Okay, so we’re probably not as full of shame as we should be, but we are talking about things that should make us shameful, namely our terrible taste in movies and television.
For movies, it appears that more than one of us has a weakness for dumb rom-coms and Julia Roberts movies. We also sing the praises of late 2000’s PG-13 horror movies (just awful) and movies featuring supernatural teens (the worst). Also for no particular reason Liore is inspired by the topic to talk about accidentally seeing Jupiter Ascending on opening day. You know. For no reason. (Shaaaaaame.)
But even the big screen cannot contain our appetite for crappy entertainment! We boldly go public with our shameful love for home renovation shows, horrible reality shows that are designed to make you feel superior, and … inexpensive Canadian shows. (CanCon for my fellow Canucks.) Elly also admits to enjoying something called “Ink Master”, but the less said about that the better.
Also, Aro knows or is related to everyone in the world! Elly literally laughs until he cries! Liore is not ashamed about watching all that Korean television, so whatever!
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Back in my homeland, where I used to live and my employer still does, today is Family Day. If “Family Day” sounds like a weird, generalized holiday that’s because it is. Essentially parts of Canada got tired of not having any days off between New Years Day and Easter, and so in 2013 Family Day was born to much rejoicing.
This year of course I’m celebrating remotely. My household is currently under post-holiday austerity measures for both dollars and calories, so I’m spending this random Canadian holiday … playing video games all day in my pajamas. And not writing blog posts.
Over at Clean Casuals today Arwyn has a post on the difference between “game bloggers” and “game journalists” that I found interesting. In the wake of Massively’s closure there’s been some discussion of whether bloggers could fill the news, interviews, and reviews gap. We can just band together and be the new Massively, right?
Arwyn thinks that isn’t such a solid idea, and I’m inclined to agree. Instead of leaving a giant comment there I thought I’d post it here.
(As a sidenote the Massively folks launched their Kickstarter today for Massively Overpowered, so go support them if you are so inclined!)
Do I think some MMO bloggers “have the same strengths and skills as the paid writers, and could produce the same quality of work”? Yes, totally! A bunch of us have in the past or currently do write for professional game sites on the side. Do I think it’s a good replacement for something like Massively? Naaah.
The vast majority of bloggers have non-freelance dayjobs, which means they can’t write up the hot news when it happens, or watch E3 presentations live, or whatever. A Massively replacement wouldn’t have the same kind of dedicated staff as a site with professional journalist types.
Also I think sometimes people assume that because writing a personal blog is fun obviously writing articles for something like Massively is also “fun”. And sure, it is sometimes, but often it isn’t. It’s a job, and you’re writing about games you don’t care about or you can’t be as silly with your language because you’re a real site with a real ads. You have word counts and mandatory screenshots and professional relationships.
On my blog I don’t care about any of that. Hell, I barely care about forming a coherent argument, because it’s my blog suckas! And that is why I enjoy it so much.
Often people see writing about games, just like developing games, as a “fun” job because we all love video games. And while sure, it’s probably more fun than writing about hammers or something, it takes a good helping of time and dedication to churn out words about stuff even when you’re not feeling the fun. It’s a job, like any other job. Implying that hobby bloggers can just step in and take over with the same level of coverage and quality is vaguely insulting to professional writer types (like me in my day job!).
I actually didn’t read Massively very often, preferring the more loosey-goosey opinions of my fellow bloggers. But that doesn’t mean that the two are interchangeable. A professional game news site would be a poor place for Eri‘s swear-filled rants, and a blog that was just a straightforward listing of patch features wouldn’t be terribly interesting. We need both for a healthy MMO ecosystem.
As you probably noticed, earlier in the week I wrote a fairly tongue-in-cheek post about MMO payment models. It was largely inspired by Syl’s post on the same subject.
In her post Syl linked the Cat Context episode from June, 2013 where she sat down with my and Ellyndrial to talk about payment models. At the time she and I had been having a bit of a blog battle over the whole thing, myself being passionately in favor of subscriptions and Syl defending F2P as not being inherently terrible. (I think that’s a fair summary of our stances!)
When I read the most recent post I tried to stoke some of the old internal fire on this topic. I still don’t trust F2P games, and I think embracing them (by developers and players) has made some areas of gaming pretty messed up. I think the psychology of preying on whales is the same as the psychology behind casino gambling, and that makes me feel squicky. As I said in my brief “last word” post I like subscriptions, and I don’t play MMOs that don’t have some kind of subscription option because that’s just how I roll.
But when I sat down earlier this week to write yet another post on it all I realized… I just don’t care that much about it anymore. Over time in the MMO blogging community you see the same evergreen discussions come up again and again: Payment models, casual vs. hardcore, WoW destroyed MMOs, and so on. And while I certainly encourage folks to continue writing posts on those subjects when they have something to say, after 6+ years I’m not sure I do.
Not only that, but time and the supposed wisdom that comes with it has made me a little more tractable. When I try to adopt a philosophy of “everyone should play what makes them happy”, can I really get all raged up about payment model preferences? I dunno, man, if you’re having fun then I guess it’s all good.
Plus let’s face it, us grumps have lost this battle. My feelings about MMOs changed dramatically after the rise and sudden fall of WildStar. Here was a game that espoused all of the things that we old school, Burning Crusade fans wanted! There was raiding and challenging leveling content and elaborate crafting and subscriptions. And it turned out when faced with this throwback game.. for the most part, and for whatever reason, we didn’t actually want it. So much for pining for the old days. So much for bickering in support of the subscription model. I still feel a little lost about it, to be honest.
So this week instead of fighting the old battles and throwing down with other sites in rhetorical glee, I farmed up a hat for my chocobo.
… Ugh, casual bloggers are the worst.