Dear CheapBranded, thanks for your caring email…

My computer makes a doorbell sound, ‘ding-dong’, that used to be associated with Avon calling but is now better known as Windows default for a new email.

A shadowy preview of the new message appears in the lower right of my laptop screen and tells me it is from someone called ‘CheapBrandedViagra’.

(Just mentioning the word Viagra in my blog will send the spam protection software for this site into overdrive, such is the inter-connectedness – euphemism for lack of privacy – on the internet.)

A train of thought begins, thanks to my new friend CheapBranded, and I wonder if many of us realise how often we turn to the latest email, Facebook status, Twitter tweet or blog comment to fill deep emotional needs and stave of dreariness.

If our dearest friends are those who connect with us electronically, I have an amazing friend in CheapBranded as he has shown incredible determination to bypass not only my own spam protection, but that of my internet provider.

(I thought you should know I have worked with great commitment to avoid any unfortunate Viagra puns in this posting…)

But wait, perhaps CheapBranded is just that, not a caring friend who searched me out today with a loving email as my life faces precipitous change, but a cheap charlatan hoping to profit by pushing his brand at some perceived need.

How easy it is to turn a means of friendship into a business function. So all-consuming is consumerism, has it consumed the simple, uncomplicated pleasure of friendship and family?

Is it wrong to mix profit and relationship? Hardly not. There’s great joy in a shop or business that can count its customers as friends.

The issue is which comes first and what is the motivation. If you are clearly selling a product (like dear old CheapBranded) or promoting a cause and along the way through your kindness and generosity develop friendships with your customers, all is well – they knew you were selling. If you turn your unsuspecting friends and family into potential customers because you have access to their lives, I’m not sure the same dynamic applies. They may feel ripped-off and preyed upon.

Which is somewhat of a tangent from my original thought, graciously introduced by my unfriend’s email this morning – the use of digital love to fill emotional need.

My conclusion is that it is great that we can like, poke, comment, chat, wall-to-wall, tweet, message, reply and, dare I say, blog, as a way of relating. But if you are finding that no amount of electronic involvement is alleviating your aching heart, don’t just go all the harder online. If no amount of comments on your status or retweets of your thoughts quell the uneasy realisation that you are really alone, face the fact that you could be on the edge of an internet addiction.

Step away from the computer, just turn away. And when the shaking stops, form a plan to meet a real person who can give you a hug, share a meal or laugh at your jokes.

And if the Avon lady calls, invite her in for a cup of tea… PH

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