I want to be your friend

Published on 2024-01-03

I've had a bit of a winning streak in discovering cool stuff on the internet this last week. Especially on Gemini.

The most significant problem I run into when searching for gemlogs is that they're all kind of... dead. The vast majority of gemlogs I come across have at most three posts, and they look like:

  • hello, world!
  • how I serve my capsule on gemini
  • what should I be posting on my gemlog?

And the last post is from 2021.

If they do go on any longer they're usually very technical in nature. I don't really have anything against people who post lots of technical writing on the internet, but it's not really for me.

There are a few gems (pun unintended) out there. They can be hard to find. Poets, amateur philosophers, authors, artists, people with crazy special interests who've collected thousands upon thousands of words on their passions... They're all out there, somewhere. Finding someone who shares your interests in the void is super rewarding.

It feels kind of like finding a new friend.

I've been thinking a lot about how parasocial relationships work in the smallweb and on gemini. Usually when we talk about parasocial relationships, we're thinking about major celebrities and influencers. It's quite different when the people we develop parasocial relationships with are nobodies on a part of the internet at most a few thousand people frequent.

Like, lots of people I find around these parts seem to actively want to engage strangers on the internet, to "make new friends" online, like they used to back in the early days of the web. I try my best to do that as well. However, it's not very often people actually come across the stuff I publish, and even more rare that people reach out to me when they do.

Yesterday, I came across a really cool capsule. Probably one of the coolest I've seen since I first got into gemini. I read all of this person's articles in their gemlog, and in it, they went into excruciating detail about their mental health over the last five years. Pretty suddenly, I found myself being more intimately aware of this person's life than I am of many of my friends IRL. It was a really strange feeling. I kind of wanted to reach out to this person, as I always try to when I find someone's corner of the internet that I find cool, to tell them how much I liked their writing, and how much it spoke to me, but I couldn't come up with a way to do it without crossing boundaries I imagine they'd have.

Like, for example, if I were to post about my mental health on my gemlog, I probably wouldn't want people to start talking to me as though they intimately understand who I am as a person. In the very unlikely case I would go into great detail about my mental health on this gemlog, it'd probably be as an extended metaphor for some other idea I want to express. I do think you can gleam a lot of information about who I am from my writing, but I don't think I'd want someone to think they truly know me just by reading my writing alone.

I suppose, that'd be what I'd call a parasocial relationship.

Despite the fact that I know all this stuff about this person's life, they don't know me at all, and that feels really strange. That imbalance is so intense that I don't really feel like I have anything to say to them that'd make sense.

I guess one "solution" to this is to try and never see the people who's gemlogs you read as potential friends and to always see them just as writers you admire. But like, that's not even really the kind of relationship I want to have with the people who read mine!

There is some middle ground, somewhere, between the two extremes, because it's clear carrying these one-sided relationships with us is wrong, and not actively seeking to make Real Connections with Real People is... not the point?

Anyways, perhaps by this point it should go without saying:

Respond to this article

If you have thoughts you'd like to share, send me an email!

See here for ways to reach out