Think of this:

You get a call that your mother has been rushed to the hospital for a burst colon and later on learn that she has passed away from complications.  It’s a huge blow and before the Internet a person in this situation would rally around their family and friends, even if it meant driving hundreds of miles.

Yesterday I received the very news that I described above and, while I did stay in constant telephone contact with my family (I live several hundred miles away), I found that the internet was an invaluable tool as well.

I frequent Chris’ chat room and have for several years.  Even though I have never met anyone in the chat room in real life, I consider several of them friends and confidants.  Kat, Mouse and a handful of other chatters I feel I have come to know well, even though we do not know what each other looks like.

It got me thinking about online chatting and the way it has changed the world, the way we communicate and what is defined as friendship.  When I first started chatting online it was through AOL, before broadband.  AOL, at that time, billed per hour through your home phone bill.  I was a regular at a local chat room and we got together at a local convention center one day.  It was big news and several papers and television news stations did a story on how these “strangers” were getting together to meet.

As I stated before, I consider several of the chatters in Chris’ chat room to be friends and they proved it earlier today by offering heart felt condolences and support, the likes of which used to only be received from family and real life, close friends.

So what is friendship today?  Communication today is not limited by distance or tethered by a phone line.  Is the physical meeting of someone required to become a friend, a true friend?  Today it has been proven, to me at least, that it does not matter if you have ever met a person in real life to call them a friend.  The caring, the love, the true meaning of a friend can be transmitted through the broadband cable lines and over wireless Internet signals and be just as strong.

Am I a geek for calling my online contacts true friends?  You bet I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!  A big thank you goes out to all of the chatters at Lockergnome who have shown me they care and have extended a hand or a shoulder to cry on.

I will be going to my mother’s funeral tomorrow and I know that I will take each one of my online friends with me in spirit.  They give me strength to deal with the hard time ahead and I am forever grateful.