One of the upshots of having gone on holiday is that I have made contact with my audio friends on social media. It started when one of the guy’s mum assumed that because I am British and that I was going on holiday, I would be going to Spain; she cackled with glee when I confirmed I was. I have to say that I wasn’t best pleased with being stereotyped in this way; I assumed she was picturing a package holiday complete with competitive sun lounger towel wars around the hotel swimming pool, though I acknowledge that is my stereotype rather than hers.

Perhaps I should step back and fill in the context here. When I talk about my audio friends, I am using the fact that I have only had contact with them through video gaming. This is possible because of (so called) high speed internet and some extremely impressive software programming, though possibly only software engineers will appreciate that; but I stray. I have been playing the same game for over two years now, and have over a hundred friends I have made in that time.

The friends I play with most have come and gone over the years, but my current base team consists of Octo, Battle, Quick, Ham, Dada, and Sandy (me). I want to give you a flavour of the variety of the people I meet online. Dada is British guy who is a software engineer who works from home. Battle lives in Florida and recycles air conditioning units. Quick, Ham and Octo all live in Indianapolis. Quick is a maintenance engineering supervisor, Ham is a graphics designer and Octo is a hydraulic engineer. Ham’s family came to the states from Nigeria and Octo’s from Mexico, they are both in their twenties; the rest of us are around fifty years old. Perhaps the most important thing apart from making a good team is that we share our stories and have a good laugh together.

Anyway back to Ham’s mum (who needs her own reality TV show because she is a real character that no-one should mess with). I felt the need to get Ham to show his mum images of where we were staying in Mallorca to see if that is what she was picturing but how to achieve this? I was already friends with Quick through Facebook (it was actually through Ham that I worked out which particular guy he was) so I sent Ham a friend request and got Quick to vouch for me because Ham wouldn’t recognise my real name. Contact made, I posted some photos of the villa on my timeline and directed Ham to them. Word must have spread because I then got friend requests from the other team members.

The upshot of this is that they all got to see my holiday photos but more interestingly perhaps is that we all got to see what each other looks like. Dada commented that I looked exactly as he had pictured me, though since my profile is not up to date (no beard) I found this amusing; I also find such a comment puzzling. I don’t believe I have any real conception what people look like from their voices though if pushed perhaps I would say a deeper voice probably has a bigger build than someone with a higher voice even though I know from experience this isn’t always the case. The nearest facial characteristics I might make would be a general statement that some of the guys I meet online are black but I’m not always clear on that either until some reference is made to it.

So where does this leave me? Looking at someone’s picture doesn’t necessary mean that I know them any better personally but it does give me clues into their lives and the people that love them. Seeing Dada dressed up as the transvestite from the Rocky Horror Picture shows that he’s not afraid to laugh at himself but that is something I actually know through gaming with him. I got to see Ham’s mum who doesn’t look so ferocious in real life. I got to see Octo’s wedding pictures (surely those can’t be doughnuts next to the wedding cake). I’ve got to see Battle’s and Quick’s families. On the whole though, people rarely post about the more difficult side of their lives.  Strangely enough I know some of this stuff through chatting online.

I have found that generally, Americans tend to be better at expressing their emotions whereas I am a lot more reticent about directly communicating about my life; that is why I write though. It is a bit bizarre when I think about it. I want people to know me as I am, but whilst I can be very honest face to face, I am much more cautious when only audio is present. I don’t want Ham’s mum to stereotype me but at the same time I have to be indirect about how she finds out my uniqueness. Or am I deluding myself here? If I can discover things about my friends through listening to them and how the behave, surely they can do the same to me? Did they detect my anxiety when all five of them went somewhere else in the game and I couldn’t figure out where to go? Did they detect my feeling of abandonment and injustice when three of them went off to do something together even though one of the three got on after I had.

At the end of the day does any of this matter? We all have a unique view of each other that nobody else will share. One thing I can say about seeing the photos of my audio friends is that I have a much greater desire to meet them in the flesh now. I wonder what insecurity was at play there?