Saturday, September 01, 2007

A tribute to online friends: Highlander 's fourth birthday. (updated)

Highlander is four years old today and I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about the effect of internet on our life.

Before internet, people interested in communicating with other cultures or making friends or even keep in touch used to write letters and use what we now call snail mail. Many of us can surely remember our little pen pals from those exotic far away sounding places.

In recent months the little bug that I noticed was going around is that several bloggers were pouring their hearts out about their friends and friendship in general.

Khadijateri : "Friends are not always forever, I have discovered."

Trabilsia: "Communication is interpreted by each single individual acording to his/her frame of mind.[sic]".

Loulou: " What do you do? Give in to your sense of duty and loyalty? Reach out to her and try very hard to change your perception of her?".

Carmen even devoted two posts: (1) "You hope that you meet people throughout your life journey that'll always stick around and that no matter how bad things get, they just don't go anywhere." and (2) "I always pray that they'll tap into the friendship reserve that we filled up together and realize how much I really do love them."

This is only a sample but basically all these complaints mean friendship IS important otherwise we would not devote so much time writing about it.

I love my friends and loved my pen pals. However, with the explosion of technology that revolutionised communication during the last decade or so, communication is now instant and reaches a wider network and farther then we ever imagined.
We have email, blogs, chat forums and all sorts of other forums. We instant message (IM) each other, Skype, text and leave offline messages. In short we interact and make new friends daily and it is easier to keep up with our old ones.

Before the blogosphere, I was looking for an interface to interact with fellow Arabs online, a place where I could communicate with them in several languages, a social network of sorts where there were like minded and not so like minded people. I stumbled like many Arabs on ( does not work anymore).

By mid 2002 Planetarabia started shutting down, our emails were erased and features disappeared until one day sometime in 2003 Planetarabia was no longer.

I made so many friends on Planetarabia, Arab and non- Arab (probably a few people hated my guts lol) but I never made enemies. I fondly remember our conversations, discussions and arguments. It was the forum I used to hone in my ideas for those 3 years when I was online. I met several of the friends behind the usernames. Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, UK, US, Canada, Israel etc.. so many memories and so many great friends: R, M, Y, S and D I miss you so much. Their numbers are still in my cell phone and though we are no longer on Planetarabia we still are able to keep in touch.

In August 2003 I discovered the blogs and a new way to interact and my comments became long posts on my blog. Funnily enough I came across someone I knew from Planetarabia who also became a blogger, it was so hilarious when we compared notes about those we knew in common. This is just to show that the people you click with, you always will like them under whatever other name they are.

A lot of things changed since 2003 many readers have come and gone among whom I made also some great friends. Many of them who are no longer here but still read me are missed dearly. Others who have chosen to get on with their lives are missed very much.

The blogosphere has changed, the Libyan one has grown from yours truly into a big family. The Egyptian blogs are not as they used to be. The Iraqi blogosphere has a different mood. The Lebanese bloggers have kind of lost hope; the Kuwaiti blogs are not as fun as back in 2005, the Tunisian blogs are different. Yet among all these people I have many friends, brothers and sisters I would die for. I miss you all and I wish we could turn back the clock to before 9/11 and to another era.

I wanted to thank each and every reader and friend who has ever graced Highlander's blog. I learned from you very much. To those of you who know me personally don't worry sooner or later I will get in touch. I won't forget those of you who are no longer in the comment section because you all encouraged me to stay the course.

Planetarabia was a great forum and I am so sorry it closed. I have been able to find one link showing how it looked to us: here and also a piece of news about when the BBC agreed to stream the news on it.
I'm not worried though as I have saved a lot of its webpages over the years and most of the discussions on my hard disk and from time to time I can reread what we said and what we thought and it would spring back to life; the hopes and the innocence but most strikingly the human relations that formed.

In conclusion friends are not only those we find in the conventional way; let's not look a horse gift in the mouth. Also, true friends do last forever, anything else is a 'business transaction' as one of my new blogger friends said in quoting Libyan writer Sadeg Nayhooum.

PS, Has any of you ever been on Planetarabia? Do you want to share and tell me by which name you used to be known there?

Update (11.24 PM)

For the nostalgic among you, is based on the same ideas as Planetarabia but it simply does not feel the same. Planetarabia was simpler and more streamlined.


غازي القبلاوي Ghazi Gheblawi said...

Dear HL happy anniversary, and wish you more success, as for planetarabia, although I've been using the internet since 1998, the first days it entered Libya, but I wasn't into forums or discussion groups, but the internet in general changed the way we perceive the world around us, as for blogging, which celebrates its 10th birthday this year, is only one stop in lots of surprises that will come, this is technology is bound to evolve every month, we just entered the world of podcasting and vodcasting and youtube and it will carry on and on we have only to be part of this evolution.
Happy anniversary again.. And keep working

Maya M said...

Excellent post!
Your mention of 9/11 here puzzled me. I mean, I don't see its relevance to the subject. I know practically nothing about how 9/11 affected the Arab world. Did it polarize and separate people? Did it, to your opinion, contribute to the demise of Planetarabia?

Highlander said...

Thank you Ghazi yes it won't stop with blogging I agree.

Maya the relevance of 9/11 is to a bygone age when topics for discussion involved less polarisation in the world. Planetarabia was pulled down because it was too successful and started to cost too much money to maintain. I don't know how that ads up as I'm not a financial guru.

programmer craig said...

Happy anniversary, Highlander :)

4 years! And I missed almost 2 of them! I've read all the archives, though! So frustrating reading old posts and wanting to comment on a 3 year old conversation, but knowing nobody will ever read it! Do you feel like that wehn you read the "PlanetArabia" discussions you saved?

I used to participate on Bulletin Board Systems back from about 1989 up to about 1992. The internet was around then, but not widely available. I also used to be a member of Prodigy and Compuserve. I stayed on Compuserve up until about 1993 when the internet started exploding and personal internet accounts became available (before that you could only realistically get them through work or universities). Once I was on the internet I was a regular on usenet, which I probably miss more than all the others. I was never a big fan of forums, because they tend to come and go at the whim of whoever is maintaining them, but I did participate on a few, here and there.

I think blogs have the potential to be better than all of those. I can't wait to see what's next... I'm expecting to see blogging combined with some of the features that social networking sites have. I know some people are trying that now (Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo 360) but it's still pretty crude.

You sound very nostalgic in this post, H. I get that way sometimes too, but you know what? I don't think any of those previous online "special interest" formats was as good as I like to to remember them :)

Highlander said...

Sorry Maya I forgot to thank you as well :)

PH said...

Mabrooooooook Highlander I hope you have a happy fourth anniversary :P.
As for planetarabia I don't know it, I've never been a fan of social networking sites, it even took me a while to get used to blogging :P ... I usually roam for files and downloads even in the old days I would be rummaging for text files and what not ..... at the time they were a big deal :))))).


Brave Heart said...

Dear Highlander
happy anniversary, i think u must be proud because u and Khadija Teri took the first step in building Libyan blogger family.also i'm proud of u,because just reading ur posts can give a bright picture about how Libyan youth especially girls they think.for me 11/9 has many advantages at least it shows our true situation in this world and shows the lack toward our responsibilities to understand the world and most importantly understand ourselves first.
keep going u have the potential to present us in bright way, blogs gives us this chance we can communicate with the world to hear and understand us and i think Burning Baghdad is good example for this.
i hope u will celebrate ur 5th anniversary with more success and strong friendship with everybody .

LadyCroc said...

Happy anniversary!

I remember the first Libyan meeting place was on mIRC #Libya channel. That was around 1994 I think. Last I checked, it was still working but few users were on. I am still using mIRC for e-book download and sometimes chat.

I remember Bulletin Boards, too, but never really used them because I had no access to a PC at a daily basis, then (end of 80ies-start of 90ies)- I sometimes use Bulletin boards when nerding around with DOS and Unix.

Then came Hafed Legwell´s discussion board in the mid-90ies; it died down and al-Baghdadis Muntada board came up in stead around 1997. It´s dead now, too.

Else i use MSN or AOL IM to stay in touch with people, and of course the blog world! I´ve used PlanetArabia very little. In stead I used all kinds of Moslem discussion boards.

Keep in touch!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary Highlander..
PlanetArabia no it's my first time to hear about it.

Anglo-Libyan said...

happy annversary and many to come inshaAllah ya highlander.

i will be checking the links and thank you for all you for us Libyans :o)

Roberto Iza Valdés said...


Anonymous said...

Happy anniversary Highlander!
Still & always will be the No. 1 Blog.
Take care and wishing you many happy blogging years to come.


Omar Gheriani said...

A very happy anniversary and many more to come.

Anonymous said...

Dear H!
Happy Anniversary. Thank you for all the good stuff, and, I hope that you will keep doing this for many years to come. You certainly contributed very strongly to me continuing my own blogging, after my Libya travels, which was the original purpose of my little bloggie.

I admire you for always being so cheerful eve through the hard times, and for your ability to stay above holding grudges, even when some people were getting nasty with you.

Anonymous said...

Happy 4th birthday.

Thanks to the internet, I was able to get in touch with a number of friends and make new friends. Share good news as well as the not so good. In fact, I've found out a number of my ex-schoolmates have left us at a very young age. Without the net, I would always be wondering about the well-being etc.

In fact, while googling for Libyan sites, I stumbled into yours and have never missed reading your post since that day back in 2005, I think. So it has been 2 years of blogging for me. I never thought I would keep on blogging either.

So, Highlander, in a way, you have inspired me to start a blog.


> said...

Happy Blooger Birthday

Anonymous said...

Nice sentiments H. I have greatly enjoyed meeting people like you on the new media. Sorry to hear that they shut down this important venue. I believe that the Arab world is much in need of new voices such as yours and many of your friends.

Regards as always from Houston.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Highlander and many happy returns!

Highlander said...

Programmer_Craig :) Thank you for the good wishes. I'm flattered that you read the archives. I suggest you comment on old posts if you wish and I will bring them up again maybe someone else wishes to comment there.

I am not familiar with BBS and the other things but yes I'm a bit nostalgic about Planetarabia because that is where I met my first online friends.

PH thank you 3azizi, I still roam for files :P too

Braveheart thank you :) I'm proud of all the Libyan bloggers as well. What a thoughtful comment you made my friend. Riverbend was and will be one of my favourite Iraqi bloggers ever.

Safia thanks :) I remember mIRC I tried once to log in there upon the insistence of an old friend who said it was great to chat. But by the time I registered got a user name and was able to find this Libyan guy online my time at the internet cafe was up LOL it would have been so much easier to just got on msn chat he just never got it and I was not insistant enough.

A. Adam thank you brother :) Planetarabia stopped back in 2003.

AngloLibyan thank you :) inshallah we'll all be celebrating toghether decades from now.

Roberto Iza Marhabtein and welcome to my blog.

7mada thank you so much I don't see you much around but you always show up right on time for the important moments :) of course I know you still read me silently :P

Gheriani :) thank you. All the best to you as well.

Adam and Red my dear friends :) I feel so proud when a blogger continues to blog because somehow I inspired him/her.

Lost Libyano thanks dude :)

Curt from Houston :) thank you long time no see! Planetarabia was not shut down because of problems with freespeech it was shut down because of budget problems. There are a lot of voices in the Arab world but sometimes the language barrier prevents people from listening or only the voices of those not representative are heard the loudest.

Sillybahrainigirl :) thank you and welcome to my blog! I'm a silent fan of yours by the way ...