Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A friend is a friend is a friend...?

I just posed a question on Twitter...

Is there a word yet for people that you consider friends 
but have only met internettily, never in person?

...which is interesting for the conversation it seems to have generated, but also because before I started using Twitter, I would never have believed that I would consider someone a friend if I had never met them in real life. 

Going all the way back to the Early Common Internet Era (the 1990s), I had college friends who would spend hours upon hours on internet chat things like ICQ, talking with people from Chicago to Australia, most of whom they had never met in person. And when those friends decided to meet these internet contacts in person, I thought it was a Very Bad Idea with the potential ultimately to be made into a Lifetime movie starring Annie Potts and directed by Joanna Kerns.

Of course, it all worked out fine, though I refrained from such internet relationships. But then I started this blog in 2006, and in 2008 I hopped on the Twitter bandwagon. Now, 1,000+ blog posts and 13,000+ tweets later, I realize that I think you can really make friends with someone without ever having met him or her in real life.

Por ejemplo, I have a [whatever the word is for Internet-Only Friend] named Clif whom I consider a chum, even though we've never met in person and, on paper, we have very little in common. I'm 36; he's 160, apparently. But we both like goofy church stuff and Lawrence Welk, and if I recall correctly, we met some time in 2007 when Clif commented on one of my blog posts. We've traded e-mails occasionally, and I consider him a good friend -- the internet-savvy yet charmingly old-timey and nostalgic great-uncle I do not have. When I sent out an invitation to our upcoming performances of "Smoke on the Mountain" (you should totally come), Clif replied with a reference to a song sung by Patsy Cline back in the day. Turns out this song is one of my solos in the show, so it was a pleasure to e-mail back and forth to get a little more in-depth with Clif on the differences between my version and the Patsy Cline version, etc. We've had a few back-and-forth exchanges over the years and, while sometimes I feel like we're using language in a slightly different way, I do consider Clif a friend-I-haven't-met-in-person-yet. (Or -- do I dare attempt to coin an answer to my question above? -- a "FIHMIPY.")

Caso en punto número dos: West-Coaster Megan Maria and I connected online after I made a funny (to me and to her, at least) comment on and she started following me on Twitter. We exchange jokes, indictments of workplace violators, and reflections on popular culture via tweets and the occasional blogpost generated through such tweets. Again, on paper, Megan and I share little in common -- she's a she, and I think she's far younger than I -- but our similar senses of humor and shared appreciation for Betty White and unicorns have led me to consider her another FIHMIPY.

The conversation on Twitter hasn't really reached any resolution regarding what to call friends you haven't met in person yet. Nichole just calls them "friends," Robby refers to them as "contacts," and Elizabeth suggests, "Um... stranger?" (And all of a sudden, I understand why the Television Without Pity forums have a rule about not starting any post with "Um...") 

Because there doesn't seem to be any consensus, and I trust that at least someone on Twitter would have told me if there was such a word already, I propose we adopt "FIHMIPY" as the official internet acronym for "Friend I Haven't Met In Person Yet." I further propose that it is to be pronounced 

fĭm' ĭ pē 

as though it rhymes with "finicky." A quick Google search indicates that no one else has ever before put that combination of letters onto the internet. So, FIRST! Or whatever the kids are saying these days.

I fully understand that you might not have any FIHMIPYs in your life, and that's OK. But I've got a good handful that I've met through Twitter and this blog and others, so I'm going to go ahead and make that my word. You may use it if you wish, without attribution. 

And maybe, just maybe, you can be my FIHMIPY someday, too.


Nichole said...

FIHMIPY it is!

Chris said...

The kids these days say "Thats beast" if something is good but not sure about being first. I proclaimed these contacts,friends etc to be IBC's (Internet Buddy Contacts) although I enjoy your whimsical take as well. Just dont call them tweeps, I hate that term :)

Clifton said...

Thanks, Scott. I'm honored to be your friend, internetilly or any other way.

Uncle Clifton

the woman formerly known as kimjule said...

I must correct, it was IRC, not ICQ, and would Annie Potts have played me? Not a good match... :)

I fully support your fihmipy campaign!

Scott S. Semester said...

LOL, my bad, Julmille. :) And I think you would be the 14-year-old daughter in the film.

Speaking of which, do you remember me spending an evening comparing JennySchell to a 5-year-old Italian boy? She seems to have taken that personally somehow...