The Internet Stranger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut this is a song
for strangers in a car…
Baby, maybe that’s all
we really are.

– Marc Cohn

We don’t meet strangers. We make them.

I recently met some folks, previously known to me only via the Blogs, for the first time, and like an Austen character, I was announced upon entry as “The Internet Stranger.” (I am the Scarlet Pimpernel!!) I felt, on the instant, as if I should be caped and hooded, I should be Batman. Or at least the slightest bit mysterious. Stalking imperiously around the house, channeling Christopher Lee, laughing like the Count from Sesame Street, with constantly cocked eyebrow and penetrating stare.

But that would have been weird…

…And I digress. On reflection (which at the very least means I’m not a vampire), I ask myself: what is a stranger?

Are all the people we’ve never met “strangers”? Conversely, are all the people we already have, not? What makes someone a stranger to me? When we were children, it was simple: a stranger was some guy with a van, or anyone who offered us candy on the street. But as adults, the term is hardly so clear-cut.

Just yesterday, a fellow blogger noted that one of my older posts seemed like a letter I had written to her well before I even  knew who she was. That got me to thinking again. What if it was? Not to her, specifically, but to all the “Internet strangers” out there, written in the hopes that some of them might not be so strange after all.

This same blogger, in a recent post, asked an interesting question: faced with the ominous silence that often accompanies a blog post, why do we blog instead of just writing in a journal? Why do we keep putting it all out there, even when no one seems to be listening? Maybe this is the secret: diaries are great if you’re Anne Frank or Jan Brady, but at the end of the day, they are simply mute. You can pour your heart into them, but they will never offer anything in return. With blogging, there is hope. Hope that one day, you may get a “Polo!” in response to your “Marco!”

In blogging, we embrace an idea: the idea that strangers are only friends we haven’t met yet. Anne Shirley said it best: “Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Some people–family, so-called friends, co-workers–have known me for years, and don’t know me from Adam. Then there are others, whom I’ve never met, who’ve known me since the day I was born, and I them. We just don’t know it yet.

So, the next time that metaphorical car pulls up alongside, the door swings open, and a “stranger” beckons from inside, in the words of Marc Cohn, “are you gonna get in, or are you gonna stay out?”

Because that stranger may turn out to be a life-long friend you never knew you had.