Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Wednesday 19 September 2012

The Internet Makes Buddies of Us All.

A couple of years ago, I met an awfully nice chap. We were introduced. He mistook me for my husband in a quick-witted, humorous way that made all three of us laugh. We had a conversation, and were in the same room, in the same company for three or four hours. I had a nice time.

Not very long afterwards, the husband and I joined Twitter and I looked for various people to follow. Because he was amusing and clever, and made a nice impression, I looked up this chap, and, lo and behold, there he was. He also followed us back. So that was nice. When I got my own Twitter account, he followed that, too.

That was two years ago, and I feel as if he and I have developed a little relationship. He makes me laugh with his little jokes and puns. I read his blog and occasionally comment, not always to agree, and sometimes to commiserate, and, once in a while, we have a little back and forth.

I am rather charmed by the internet. I like that it means I get to interact with people. A writer’s life can be a solitary one, and it’s nice to dip into the world without leaving my desk. I like that I can say something to Sue Perkins or Susan Hill on Twitter and they might answer me. I like that a complete stranger or a fan has the chance to say something to the husband that might just get him thinking. It always happened via conventions or the website, or even via the PO Box with fan mail and whatnot, but Twitter is quicker and more immediate. I like that other professionals talk so freely one to another on the internet when once they might only have spoken two or three times a year in the bars at various convention hotels or at signings.

We are still strangers, though, aren’t we? I am perfectly friendly with lots of people that I have never met. I have even been known to flirt with one or two of them. I still believe that I behave differently with people I have met, though. I still believe that there is a type of connection that can only be made once flesh has been pressed, with the possible exception of Sarah Pinborough, but then isn’t La Pinborough the possible exception to all good rules?

Perhaps I am wrong (but not about Pinborough, obviously).

In one of our little conversations on Twitter, the lovely chap and I talked beauty, and he refuted his dashing looks, saying that if we ever met in the flesh...

I do not blame him for not remembering me. He was working the evening we met. He was ‘on’, as was the husband, and I understand the pressures of those events. There is an awful lot of glad-handing and an awful lot of name and face memorising, and I am not someone whose name or face is ever going to figure in the advancement of anyone’s career or social standing. I am only the wife of another writer. The lovely chap had more pressing things to worry about, and more important people too.

However, and this is interesting to me... However, this lovely chap has been very easygoing with me about responding to my overtures for a reasonably intimate internet friendship, which I had based on a very pleasant first meeting.

I’m charmed by his tolerance of someone who clearly must have come on a little strong, but more than anything, I wonder what he was basing the extent of our communications on, and I wonder how usual it is for people, by which I mean Twitter account holders, to strike up these sorts of correspondences.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m terribly stuffy and formal, and perhaps everyone else simply is more easygoing than I am. Maybe they are all chatting merrily away while I await the handshake and the written invitation.

Perhaps... Just perhaps, I still have a very great deal to learn about the internet... I shouldn’t be at all surprised.


  1. it is kinda fascinating.

    I've met a fair number of my mates when I changed cities and started really using a real-time chat program called mIRC, which also allowed us to send files and what have you. in time I made enough friends (and sense) to become a moderator in one of the main chat rooms in our country at the time, the illustrious #Auckland.

    within 6 months I'd met a fair number of people from all walks of life, ages, ethnicities, etc. we'd come together to talk shit, organise an overabundance of house parties, and mock anti-social bozo's who would inevitably try and ruin things for everyone.

    in the pre-Facebook days it really was one big social clique and nearly always a prelude to meeting people (a kinda try before you buy scenario) and did I mention house parties? hehe.

    a great many of these people are still good friends and now we use Facebook as the general mass "upgraded". but Facebook doesn't have that same atmosphere. #Auckland was more like the bar in "Cheers", where everybody knew your nickname, ident, and who's throat you'd had your tongue down recently.

    as such, I guess I'm a lot more casual or open to yapping to complete strangers (otherwise) over the 'intarwebs' than perhaps your average user. but where possible, I'd like to think it's a prelude to an actual face-to-face, because without that body language, much is lost, and misunderstandings are still common. plus when you meet me you start to realise why I type the way I talk.

    this became more important when I began working in call centres, because I'd come home from a long day of talking, surrounded by talking, and I didn't want to talk with my mouth to one or two people, when I could "hang" with fifty odd people while listening to (loud) music. plus I learned to touch-type! either way, definitely some of the best years of my life.

    that said, Facebook is a different beast. even in the MySpace days, I was able to talk to people who I'd never have been able to connect with, such as musicians I admired. sometimes they'd even find me! naturally there are some downsides now it's become more mainstream (such as the inevitable "open mic syndrome" and worse). I also have to accept that I may never get to meet many of the people I interact with (those I haven't already met) on Facebook, because it's different things to different people.

    for someone like me who lives on their own, and doesn't get out as much as he should, it's a great way to still keep up with all my friends, share ideas, music, etc. in a cheap and effective way. plus, I wouldn't be here otherwise ... (for better or worse muahahaha!)


    crap. me and my essay length comments ...

    1. Keep them coming. My favourite people are commenters.


  2. I think it is a generational thing. Consider the Internet as a tree. Yourself and the husband came at a time when all you saw was the empty field where the tree now stands. If you wanted to socialise it would be with those in walking distance or via letters (the grumpy father of emails and grandfather of social media such as facebook and twitter).

    In your lifetime some talented gardener has come along and grown a tree smack bang in the middle of that open field you used to walk by, and now there are generations being born who will never know that the field had been empty in the first place.

    They're too busy swinging from the branches with reckless abandon, climbing up and down.

    At least thats how I see it from my perspective. I mean I am only 23 and I have seen the spread of broadband, digital television and mobile phones. I come from the last generation that can say they saw the tree grow in front of their eyes.

    Meanwhile by 13 year old sister with her Kindle, smart phone and laptop rolls her eyes and gives me a hug. As Christopher Robin used to say to Pooh, "Silly old bear."