Friends Inside of the Computer

by Linda Roy
Originally Published: 

Last weekend, I did something I never thought I’d do. I begged my fourteen year old son to have some friends over.

After a handful of years where his peers nearly demolished our house with a supercharged combination of most awesome boy adrenaline and devil-may-care joie de vivré, which took out more than a few lamps, wall hangings and even a screen as they climbed out a window, I thought never having another of his friends cross my threshold again would be all too soon.

But when Max’s social life seemed to dry up, and his father and I noticed he was spending entire weekends holed up in his underwear with the shade down, shouting at his TV monitor, I knew it was time to intervene.

Me: Hey Max, you want to have some friends over for your birthday? We can order a few pizzas and you can all hang out; maybe watch a movie.

Max: Nah.

Me: Why not?

Max: Cuz….

Yeah. Because that, my friends, is what is known as conversation with a teenage boy.

We brought the subject up numerous times, explaining that “face time” means actually seeing the three dimensional faces of other people, not their avatars. That running through actual woods having real adventures is valuable use of the imagination. And the graphics are better.

Nope. He wasn’t buying it. Not for a minute. But think about it. If you were a kid today, how awesome would it be to have 24 hour access to your friends from the comfort of your own bedroom without actually having to share the same space? Hell, I had to make do with whatever phone time I was allowed as a teenager, and that was on the phone in my mom’s bedroom with the luxuriously extra long phone cord pulled as far out of the room and down the hall as I could manage.

I admit to a bit of hypocrisy. On a recent Friday night, as I sat in my own bedroom armed with a cocktail and my laptop loudly prattling on to a group of fellow bloggers via video chat, my two boys stuck their heads in and stared at me in utter disbelief.

Max: Mom, what are you doing?

Me: I’m video chatting! Come see!

Max: Old people. Get a life, Mom.

Me: What?! Wait a minute. I have a life! What social engagements have you got on the calendar, Mr. Smartypants?

So far that evening, from the comfort of my own bedroom, in my pajamas for chrissakes, I strolled through downtown Singapore, hung out at a Ruby Tuesdays in Minnesota, got a house tour in Texas and chatted with a friend in England, one in Rhode island, another in Massachusetts and still another in Hawaii, and there were cocktails. Oh snap!

For no apparent reason, Max kept coming in, craning his neck to check out my lap top before going back into hiding. Within ten minutes, both boys were sitting next to me introducing themselves to my internet posse. Uh huh.

Okay, I get it. And I’ve gotta admit that actually getting dressed to go out and talk to people in person is a major feat for me. But I do it. (Sometimes.)

This weekend? Max announced he was going to a friend’s house to work on a school project. With other kids! Five of them.

Max: I might not be home for dinner.

Me: Good! Go! Have fun!

Besides, I had a video chat to go to.

Related: 20 Ways to Get Boys Away From Video Games

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