A couple of months ago I watched a movie (Trust) about a young girl who was seduced and raped by an older man she met on the internet. He pretended to be young and slowly made his way into her life, by the time the girl met him in person and realised that he was middle aged, she was too dependent on him to do anything about it.
Of course I felt compelled to talk to Sofia about the dangers of meeting people on the internet. Again! Sof looked at me with a disgruntled look and told me: the only one in this family who meets strangers on the internet is you. You need to be careful!
I dare say she is right. Since my arrival on the big wide web I have met a lot of people and with a few of them I have become good friends. I have been very lucky so far and none of the one I met in real life has turned out to be some kind of creep and after a few emails, sitting and chatting in front of a coffee has felt as natural as if we had always known each other.
It all started when the girls were little and I felt the need to compare my experiences as a mother here, with italian mothers . I had a solid support network in Melbourne, lots of friends with small children to share the day to day progress of our offsprings and the joy and sorrows of motherhood. So it wasn’t loneliness that pushed me to look on the internet. By joying parenting forum and reading how women in Italy lived such an important time of their life, I found a deeper way to stay connected and keep a stronger sense of belonging. I soon found out that big community weren’t for me and I began one on one correspondence with those women I felt closer to. Needles to say, we found a lot more to talk about then dirty nappies and sleepless nights!
I met Carmela who, being married to a muslim man, provided a great opportunity to discuss the relationship with our husbands’s different religious beliefs (Nigel being jewish). Claudia, who was at the time living in Hawaii and had two boys almost the same age as my girls, it was with her that I “chatted” for the first time and I remember spending a New Year’s Eve with her and Angela, in Canada, on icq, well before Skype existed! I met Maura, whom with her five children always finds time to come and see me whenever I am in Italy and Luisa, on the other side of the Ocean, in California, which I know I will meet one day.
These friendships developed through long emails, before Facebook and Skype allowed that instant contact that now we take for granted, and I believe that what we shared in those first few years, in our respective countries, has provided us with memories just as powerful as if we lived in the same town. Whenever our paths cross, virtually or physically, I am filled with the joy and recollection that I get when I meet old friends and I treasure their presence in my life.
Over the years I have kept meeting Italian people on the internet, depending on what phase I am going through in my life. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, a few years ago, I found enormous value in reading blogs of Italian women who where experiencing the same and recently I have had the pleasure of meeting Claudia, who supported me with her professional coaching when I needed a little direction.
Elena is one of my closest friends in Melbourne. We live on different sides of “the bridge” which is almost like living in different countries and we catch up regularly on Skype. We met online a few years ago and after a couple of emails and text messages we decided to have lunch (or was it coffee?) in the city. Sofia was not happy about my unnecessary risk taking. How did I know that Elena was who she said she was? I promised her I would meet her in a public place and I would run if she tried anything untoward. Luckily Elena turned out to be quite harmless and, as Sofia had the chance to experience over the years, a lovely person.
I am aware that I have taken some risks and the internet can be a dangerous and treacherous place but I am also grateful that it has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of wonderful women which I hope will be in my life for ever.