I have many legitimate friends whom I’ve never met in person. Some of my very best friends are a group of folks who met online and have remained close for well over a decade. There was a time when that was considered a naive misunderstanding of friendship, but I’m happy to say it’s slowly becoming more and more common. (This is not to imply catfishing is no longer an issue, or that you should blindly trust people online — but rather a simple statement that technology has given us the ability to foster real, lifelong friendships with people we only interact with digitally)
ANYWAY, one of my online friends is Luis. I won’t link to him, because he may not desire random people stalking him online, but nevertheless he’s someone I consider a close friend. Luis lives in Portugal. As I started writing this, I tried to remember how we met. And I honestly can’t remember. Maybe through Linux Journal? It doesn’t really matter, because now we’re just nerdy friends who happen to live on opposite sides of the planet. We often send each other links or thoughts about cultural differences, because we’re both fascinated by such things. And whether we’re sending memes about the metric system (and how silly it is we don’t use it in the States), or having real conversations about difficult political issues, Luis always sees me as a person and not a stereotype. I appreciate that.
Yesterday, Luis sent me to a website that links to a cool interactive map you can drag around to see what countries/cities line up with other countries/cities based on latitude. The site was not in English. Mind you, Luis speaks English fluently, but it’s not his native language, so it makes sense he would visit sites that are not English. He even noted that I should run the site though a translator because it was cool enough to warrant the effort. (And it was, he was right) But here’s the thing — I had no idea how to do that.
I’ve translated words and phrases with Google Translate plenty of times. (Heck, I double-checked the title of this post just to make sure my early elementary level Spanish was correct. And I’m sure it’s slightly different in Portuguese, but I’m struggling with my Spanish on Duolingo, I can’t add another language yet, lol.) But any time I’ve stumbled across a non-English website, my browser popped up a little “Hey white boy, you wanna see this page in English?” button and I could just click and see the page rendered in English. But this page did not trigger my browser to offer me this hand-holding. And I honestly didn’t know what to do.
After a bit of googling, I discovered that I could simply right click anywhere on the page, and there was a “Translate to English” option which instantly made the site readable. And then I could play with the interactive map (which itself was actually on an English website, go figure). But it was another reminder that as a straight white male, living in the US, I’m really playing the game of life on the easiest level. No, that doesn’t mean my demographic can’t have struggles — it just means I don’t ALSO have hurdles of race, gender, language, etc. to manage along with the life situations I find myself in. Heck, translating web pages in order to read them is something I NEVER need to think about. And realizing that’s a privilege is one step toward a friendlier world.
I appreciate you, Luis. Your friendship makes me a better person. 🙂