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I have mixed emotions about online friends compared to real people. I have no problems in the communications department, but people seem much less willing in person to want to actually converse with someone else in order to learn something about them.
My best friend, whom I met in junior high, still communicates with me via the internet because we live a good eight hours and two states apart. However, he feels the dynamic of our friendship has changed because we only converse through the internet and the occasional phone call, so that has somehow demoted my status from best friend to merely a friend (at best). We work together on projects and audio production, but rarely get an opportunity to visit each other, maybe once every five or six years. I was personally offended when I had heard he referred to me as a "friend" instead of his best friend because we really only talk on occasion outside of working together. These occasions have been getting further and farther apart because life has that funny way of intruding on your plans, regardless of the level of intention you have to stay in touch with someone.
But I get the lonely bug every once in a while, and I don't like having to dress up to impress people enough to get them to talk to me when I'd rather sit in my room in front of the computer and mindlessly chat about nothing of any relative importance. I've got a few friends online for that sort of thing, and it accomplishes the same result as talking to someone in person. People over I'd risk to say 35 have a little trouble wrapping their heads around the online friend concept, but if it works for you, more power to you.

Both bits are on communication and social interaction, and how this is altered by games and the Internet is very interesting to me.

I wonder, though, if our kind of people (because I am immensely socially awkward, also about to turn 30 and a gamer) really learned to cope before or just dealt with the awkwardness before gaming offered such an easy release.

Movies seemed to have its share of geeks before gaming was viable, comic books have been a traditional geek refuge for decades and Miguel de Cervantes wrote about an escapist geek who mixes his empowerment fantasies with reality... in the 16th century!

I'm sure many would-be geeks bit the bullet and did the best they could in society, awkwardly coping with lifes without release valves, but I don't know if that's a good thing. Gaming offers all this pseudo-social interactions, like local and online multiplayer gaming that are actually a nice way to meet people and find common ground. Looking back, pretty much all of my friends throughout childhood and adolescence were people with whom I traded or played games. In retrospect I don't think I would have moved on to play more football with the jocks had I not been able to play games. My guess is I would just have been lonelier.

Of course, as you grow up you learn to widen your circle a bit. One of the most interesting things about the geek generation is that we are starting to reproduce now. Gaming blogs are full of pictures of proud dads with babies now, and parenting is becoming a thing in gaming and for mature gamers. It will be fun to see what comes of it.

Interesting stuff, can't say I don't sympathise with using the comp to avoid people in the house, but that doesn't mean i'm going to seek any form of interaction with them.

I used to have more social problems outside of the house too, but in my early teens i found alcohol, and all my inhibitions disappeared... so did what could have been a promising career in whatever or correct typing, but these sacrifices are already made now, and at the time I don't see it happening any other way.

Noelveiga:
Both bits are on communication and social interaction, and how this is altered by games and the Internet is very interesting to me.

I wonder, though, if our kind of people (because I am immensely socially awkward, also about to turn 30 and a gamer) really learned to cope before or just dealt with the awkwardness before gaming offered such an easy release.

Movies seemed to have its share of geeks before gaming was viable, comic books have been a traditional geek refuge for decades and Miguel de Cervantes wrote about an escapist geek who mixes his empowerment fantasies with reality... in the 16th century!

I'm sure many would-be geeks bit the bullet and did the best they could in society, awkwardly coping with lifes without release valves, but I don't know if that's a good thing. Gaming offers all this pseudo-social interactions, like local and online multiplayer gaming that are actually a nice way to meet people and find common ground. Looking back, pretty much all of my friends throughout childhood and adolescence were people with whom I traded or played games. In retrospect I don't think I would have moved on to play more football with the jocks had I not been able to play games. My guess is I would just have been lonelier.

Of course, as you grow up you learn to widen your circle a bit. One of the most interesting things about the geek generation is that we are starting to reproduce now. Gaming blogs are full of pictures of proud dads with babies now, and parenting is becoming a thing in gaming and for mature gamers. It will be fun to see what comes of it.

This. Well, mostly, anyway.

People say that the internet and, by extension, on-line gaming, have reduced interpersonal communication, despite the opposite obviously being true.

What the internet has reduced is the ability to read body language, which is typically used, among those who take public speaking "seriously," simply to lie or misdirect. Working in a position that gives me the ability to observe salesmen all day, I note that they're always ready to shake someone's hand and offer a smile even as they sell a worthless service contract or equipment they know is sub-par.

When you're talking, or typing, to someone on-line, you have to carefully choose your words. There's little ambiguity. "Say what you mean and mean what you say," to quote the March-Hare.

There's a reason that most gamers have friends who are also gamers. Partially the shared activity, but more that we're substantially more likely to take someone at face value, and ask that they do the same with us.

Meanwhile, in my non-gamer interactions, I have to communicate with people who act like every word of every sentence needs to be de-constructed, and expect me to do the same. I don't want to have to devote all of my processing power to what should be a simple interaction. It exhausts me.

Meemaimoh:
I love these articles. They're such a good idea.

I can absolutely relate to the first guy. I'm only 22, but I've essentially been a recluse for the last five years thanks to severe social anxiety. I'm starting to work my way out of it, but already I'm starting to get that "ship has sailed" feeling. My university colleagues are all younger than me, my highschool friends have moved on, and I have no social network beyond my family and boyfriend. I know it's ridiculous - I'm only 22, for god's sake - but in my worse moments, I still feel it.

Sounds a bit like me.

I'm also 22, and I've been diagnosed with Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety.

I used to be a social gamer, going down to the LAN cafe all the time, but ever since leaving school I moved around a bit and lost all ties with old friends. Now where I am now, it's difficult to make new friends because everybody now sticks within their own circles.

I've got "friends" all over the world. I've got friends who I meet up and play TF2 with, and it's tons of fun all from the comfort of my own home. But that's not where the problem is, if I leave home and happen to come across a large enough crowd of people, that's when I break down socially. I get pretty damn nervous at Supermarket checkouts when I have the guts to go and buy food every now and then, the funny fact? I used to work on them for 3 years.
I can't stand answering the phone unless I know it's definitely for me, the funny fact? I worked in a Call Centre.

If I continue University, a lot of people will be younger than me. But age is a minor problem I guess.

TBH, interacting with these people online is probably what's helped me through a lot of things.
The good part is when games "help" with my Social Anxiety. If I'm nervous about an appointment or am just nervous from some unknown trigger, playing games helps. How? Distracting me. It's much easier to get rid of anxious thoughts when you're not thinking about them and instead worrying about your game team's survival and giggling and laughing and having fun.

I really don't have anything to add that hasn't been said already. But my anti social nature is more due to chemical imbalances in my brain which I take medicine for. That may have affected me in early life to push me to a life of gaming I guess.

But I do have one question. Dr.Kline, why do you have two accounts? Though I do like how you used the picture of you next to the medic in your other one.

Good question, Eric. I set up one account myself to respond to posts and they set up the other one for me, though I don't know how to access it. Anyone got any advice on how to join the two so I don't have a split personality on The Escapist?

I'm abit late to this party as it were, but I thought I'd ask about the first letter - i.e. the one who seems to be in the same boat as me, though I'm abit younger.

Mark J Kline:
Thirty is still young and my experience tells me that someone who is determined to make changes and willing to pay the price can widen their horizons. I have known young men and women in your situation who make great progress. There is no sin in being a late bloomer.

The problem I have is that it seems like all my friends have moved away from the area I live, and the bulk of people in the area and at my office seem older - further still, I have no interest in alcohol, so the primary method of 'socialising' my country seem to have is out of the window. I do still have the odd friend from uni around, but really, I don't meet people of my own age in the flesh. I have friends at work and all that, but as I said, not in my age range.

Exactly right. Why are some people with exposure to technology unable to communicate properly, and some turn out perfectly fine? The problem is with the people, not the technology.
I suspect that electroncs are just a medium that people who already have social problems tend to turn to more. Tech attracts people with social dysfuctions, it doesn't create them.

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