Visible friends- They're faces are blurred to protect their identities (really to keep them from embarrassment by being associated with my crazy).

Visible friends- They're faces are blurred to protect their identities (really to keep them from embarrassment by being associated with my crazy).

I have invisible friends. I found them on the Internet. They are writers, editors, bloggers, pen pals, Twitterers, Instagrammers, and nerds. I say they are invisible, because although we converse in a multitude of ways, we have never met in person. So when I tell someone about my friend who wrote a book, or my friend who said the funniest thing this week, or my friend who posted a picture of their new puppy or baby, I sometimes get weird looks. That’s because no one has seen me with these friends of mine. There are no pictures of us together on Facebook and no one has run into us getting coffee at the local coffee shop.

There is something to be said about a friendly relationship that doesn’t require you leave your home to have an honest back-and-forth conversation. It can be very ego-boosting to have one of these friends make a witty comment on a photo you put on Instagram, or a blog post on your website. These are uncomplicated relationships. This is not to say I don’t have real, visible friends, but sometimes when you lack the emotional energy to connect with someone, having an invisible friend who can offer a few words of encouragement without commitment is nice.

There are times when my invisible friends and I engage in some deep, thought-provoking conversations. This is usually prompted by an insightful blog post, or comment, and can be very satisfying. I think I can be a little more me in these moments, because even though I love my visible friends, there is still a part of me that wants to impress, or tries not to offend. Sometimes, a part of me is missing when I am with them. Not always, but there are times. With my invisible friends, I can be my complete true self (all the time), without fear of long-term judgment or recriminations. I can be honest, and if they don’t like it, I am not as upset about disappointing them.

More real friends.

More real friends.

This past weekend I went to the reading and book signing of one of my invisible friends. Jenny Lawson, known around the Internet as The Bloggess, has been my invisible friend for seven years. I have followed her struggles with mental illness, laughed at her refreshing and candid honesty, and exchanged stories and comments through her blog and social media. I am one of her tribe. It was wonderful to sit in a room with her, and even better to have a few seconds to chat while she signed my books. There is now a picture of us together on Facebook- I am legitimized (somewhat). At the end of the night, she went home to her family, and the hundred or so of us went home to ours, and then we all got on the Internet and told her how wonderful it was to speak with her and each other.  I made a few dozen more invisible friends, and then I signed off knowing that one of my invisible friends saw me, and I am not completely crazy—just a little bit delusional.

E. Harty and Jenny Lawson at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore

E. Harty and Jenny Lawson at Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore

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