Close Friends I've Never Met

E-mail can be such an odd thing.

I was sitting with a friend the other day, talking about writing, and she asked what sort of relationship I had with an editor at a magazine.

"It's great," I enthused. "She's funny and open to new ideas and we get along really well."

"How often do you talk to her?" asked my friend, and it hit me. Never. I've never spoken to this woman once in the almost four years I've written for her. She could have walked into the coffee shop and sat at the table beside us and I wouldn't recognize her. We've never talked on the phone. Our entire relationship is, in fact, e-mail based.

That seems like an odd thing to me, especially as I consider her not just an editor but a friend and am pretty sure she feels the same. Then I started counting up "friends," and realized--for better or worse--that I have a whole host of friends comprised of people I've never actually met and probably never will.

I know I'm not alone. With the prevalence of list-servs and My Space boards and e-mail, we're all bonding with cyber friends. Is this a good thing? I don't know. But I know it's not all bad. I have several good writer friends who critique my work and whom I trust implicitly. We all started five years ago on a writers board and then moved to form our own group. I've met one gentleman and one woman from the group, but some members are in Oregon and Wyoming and Texas and all around the nation. We send each other Christmas cards, share personal struggles and achievements (one woman's father passed recently and she's now taking care of her mother with Alzheimer's), and are friends in all aspects except for the fact we've never met.

One man from our group just published his first book and thanked all of us in the acknowledgements page. I did the same with my book, as these were people who were there for the first cat story I ever wrote and critiqued each and every story that followed.

For years, I wrote the humor column for Cats & Kittens magazine. It's a national magazine but based out of Greensboro- the town I drive to at least twice a week. I went almost 3 years before I bothered to stop by and meet the editor, a woman I had exchanged jokes and tips via e-mail with for years.

I must admit, I love e-mail. I'd rather type a message than talk on the phone any day. And it helps me keep in touch with long-distance friends who I used to see in person but now don't have that option.

How about you all? Any e-mail friends out there you've never met? Any plans to meet them?