'I have small right to speak of him. I was little to him; but then he was very much to me.' (SRC’s tribute to RLS in 1894)
It used to be that one had friends. Real friends. Now most of my friends are virtual. We may not care to admit how much of our life or how many of our friends are now virtual – but they are. And yet, we are not the first generation to have this experience. Indeed in some senses the wheel comes full circle. A century or so ago, before telephone, before the internet and before we all became ‘global citizens,’ some people became friends who never met.
Robert Louis Stevenson and Samuel Rutherford Crockett were two such men. They had everything and nothing in common. A simple letter from SRC in 1887 began the friendship, which continued until RLS’s untimely death in 1895.
Since today is RLS’s birthday, I’ve put together an ebook as a tribute to the friendship, so that the modern reader (and writer) might find out more about these friends who never met. And it might help us reflect upon our own virtual friendships, these days carried out more by email than courtesy of the postal service. As writers, we might think about the importance and value of friendships with our fellow scribblers. And as readers we might also think about how even virtual friendship is under attack from the world of blog/FB/Tweet which are all too often about the sound of one voice shouting, threatening to reduce us to a species who talk a lot, listen very little and whose meaningful communication on a personal level is becoming almost non existent.
In SRC and RLS’s day letters could take months to be delivered (although of course within the UK you might be getting 4 deliveries a day if you lived in an urban conurbation!) and yet the friendships were not one-sided. They were thoughtful, considered and relevant. Today, it couldn’t be easier to communicate with others, yet the chosen communication method of most is ‘I speak’ with little time spent waiting, getting or giving a considered reply. Many conversations are started but few are continued. Responses to blog posts are all too often just another ‘start’ – another voice speaking, but with little real attempt to build a relationship or friendship between the participants. Facebook and Twitter are even worse. There is little, in my opinion, more anti-social than social media. I should perhaps not blame the medium, but that only leaves me to blame ourselves. It’s up to us to use the tools we have at our disposal. It’s up to us to build friendships and make them ‘real’ whether or not they are carried out in the virtual world. In 2014 I’ve found that increasingly my email is the repository of sales and marketing rather than a place to find a friend who wants to chat with me. And it’s lonely out there in social media when you don’t just want to sound off, you want to converse.
That said, I have friends I have never met whose friendship I value. Chief amongst these is Brendan Gisby, founder of this site. Just to give him a laugh I’ll suggest our relationship in some ways parallel between RLS and SRC - he can pick his author alter ego first of course! Brendan has been a true friend to me in the 2 or more years I’ve known him – and I remember my first correspondence with him suggesting that McStorytellers should really be MacStorytellers if it was Scots oriented! We’ve come a long way since then, and still remained true friends in a virtual world. I can only ask Brendan to forgive me by quoting from RLS ‘All my old opinions were only stages on the way to the one I now hold, as it itself is only a stage on the way to something else’
So on this, RLS’s birthday, I offer you gifts. Firstly, the ebook of ‘Friends who never met’ (and pedants please note I use ‘who’ rather than ‘that’. We should note that it’s become quite common to refer to people as ‘that’ rather than ‘who.’ Is this significant in the decline of our humanity?
Secondly, I give you the suggestion that we all try a bit harder with our friendships. Even if they are in a virtual environment, let’s try and keep them real. Let’s not just click like, share and move on to the next thing. Let’s not just ‘have our say’ in response to blog posts. Let’s actually put some good old fashioned effort into building relationships - building real friendships with people we may never meet.
To get your FREE birthday ebook just click HERE to download mobi (Kindle) or epub (other) formats.
No ereader? No problem. You can download it in PDF from HERE