When I was in high school, I had six pen pals. Six of them. I spent most of my study halls (do they still have those???) writing to any one of my six mail mates. I was hooked on envelopes and stamps and nothing was as much fun as finding a reply in my mailbox. To date, there is at least one of those pen pals I never met. She had placed an ad in 16 Magazine, and I had answered. We sent each other Christmas and birthday presents, and wrote pretty regularly, but we never did meet.
So now I have Internet friends. As with my earlier pen pals, we share jokes and complaints, book titles and mini-movie reviews, wonders and woes and other scraps of our lives. And while the exchange doesn't have all the magic of opening that waited-for envelope, I do still get a kick from seeing the sender's name and the subject line in my in-box. Some of them make me laugh like no one else I know. All of them remind me that I don't have to deal with everything life hands me all by my one-sy. And just like my pen-pals of old, I have met all of them except one.
Do I still think Internet relationships can be dangerous? Heck, yes. But every electronic pen friend I've got came about through a shared interest, whether belonging to the same favorite author's chat board, or being introduced by another mutual friend. And while I know this doesn't necessarily mean everyone is on the up and up, I've been lucky in that all of the people I've actually met have been brutally honest about who they are.
I'm glad to have my online community. They help keep me sane. On the other hand, I do still have at least one person who sends me stuff through the post office...
Speaking of friends, see how friendship can help stop a vengeful spirit in my new story, Hunting Spirits!