who the heck knows anything, anyway

Monday, August 19, 2013

Half Relationships with Hidden People

I was reading Lucy Knisley's newest comic today, and when I got to the middle, I started crying. I called Daniel, but his phone was busy. I wanted to share my happiness with someone who gets it, with someone who reads Lucy's comics with my same enthusiasm (D and I read almost all the same comics, so this is easy for us to do). I've been reading her autobio and travel comics for so long, it feels like I know her personally. I am invested in her life like a friend.

This is the strange thing that webcomics--which are released with a regularity not afforded to printed mediums--and Twitter can lead to: a feeling of friendship with people who don't know you. It's complicated, but I wouldn't trade the intimacy of Twitter (something I try, myself, to employ because I understand how powerful it can be) for the real-acquaintance reality of Facebook ever. Ever.

Sometimes it feels a bit like being in high school, like admiring the Cool Kids from the sidelines*. This sensation could be further complicated by my profession. I write fiction. I really do spend a lot of time being intimate with people who aren't real. And my favorite winding-down hobby is, as a matter of fact, watching TV. I don't love all television, but the shows I do love, I LOVE. I regularly marathon the X-Files and Veronica Mars. And then I have dreams where I'm working with Scully to save Mulder and I'm also chilling with Marlo Meekins and Madéliene Flores and Erika Moen, and then I wake up feeling very, very ungrounded in reality. I am a wallflower in half-real worlds more than I am a participant in the "real"-real one. I wake up and miss hanging out with the friends who don't know me.

Yes, I do wish I was "real" friends with more cartoonists. I am a little envious of their group, of the conversations I see because of the people I follow, and sometimes I feel like a voyeur, undeserving of seeing so clearly into their lives. But it's not like that at all. It's like Lucy says in her comic: "We're not strangers. Life, change, work...it's universal. It connects us." How great is it to feel like you can celebrate the happiness of someone you barely know? I like it, a lot. I like the way it connects me on a very empathetic level with people whose professional work I have admired from afar for years. Sure, on the one hand it feels sadly like fiction, but since the point of fiction is to make us feel empathy towards people who aren't real, that's pretty okay. Why is it bad for me to slip so easily into feeling compassion for strangers? It's not. It's not bad at all. So even though I sometimes find myself missing friends I've never had (which does feel rather like a perverse nostalgia), I am glad we live in a time where this is possible. I'm glad we live in a time where I could possibly provide comfort or a sense of inclusion for someone else.

Though, Jennifer Jordan (one half of Darwin Carmichael) and I are Twitter friends, so...I guess it's not all fiction. :)

*The nicest group of cool kids ever. Receiving an RT or a reply from someone you admire feels like Christmas. It's a good thing to keep in mind, fellow writers. If you ever make it big (or big enough to have even one fan), you can make someone's day--heck, week--with a simple smiley face.