Who says Twitter relationships are not real?

I write this through tears that are clouding my vision.   I received news today of the passing of one of my Twitter peeps @lilyhill.  While “Lily” (Roberta Frazier) and I never had the chance to meet face to face, we did share some lovely conversations and I always looked forward to seeing what she had to say.  In some ways it seems odd to feel the profound sadness that has come over me at the passing of someone I really had never “met”.  But, I do feel a deep sadness.  A sadness for Roberta’s family – my heart aches at the thought of her daughter having to type that final tweet from her mother’s account – A sadness at a life lost way too early; A slightly selfish sadness that I will no longer be able to avail myself of Roberta’s wit and wisdom.  And an even more selfish sadness at the reality of my own mortality.

What strikes me even more is that I am feeling this deep sadness for a person that I only knew electronically.  There are people who try and claim that the relationships we develop through Twitter are not “real”.  They are a result of snippets of information that we chose to share with the world and have no basis in the deep understanding necessary for true relationships. I say they are wrong!  In the almost 2 years that I have been on Twitter I have been blessed to interact with people all over the world that I now truly call FRIENDS.  Some I have met in person and some I have not, but that does not lessen the feelings I have for these people.  Some of the people I now consider my dearest friends, that I consider my extended family, I met on Twitter.

The bits and pieces of our lives that we daily share with each other on Twitter are the building blocks for those relationships.  The times that we laugh together, support each other, educate one another, just chat, share virtual hugs, share wisdom & insight and on days like today, cry together. This is what builds those relationships.  It is wonderful when proximity allows us to translate those into “real life” friendships, but I don’t feel any less for those I am close to on Twitter who are in Florida, Missouri, California or Australia than I do for those right here in my own beloved Philadelphia.  I can feel their love, kindness, support and caring as strongly as if they were sitting here next to me.  Twitter has allowed me to grow beyond my own little geographical world.  It has allowed me to touch and be touched by the power of people from everywhere. For that I am eternally grateful.  I wrote “An Open Letter to My Tweeple” back in February 2008 describing what Twitter meant to me.  Those thoughts and feelings are amplified exponentially with each day that I spend engaging in conversations and interacting with my community on Twitter.

So to those who would say these relationships are not real – I on behalf of the Twitterverse say you are very, very wrong.  The sadness I feel right this moment at the passing of @lilyhill is proof.