As I was posting this comment on Jesse's blog, I was IM'd by one of my Online Mommies. I haven't talked with her in quite some time, and I've missed her terribly. I asked her how she was, and she told me. Then she quipped,
"I'd ask you how YOU guys are doing, but I'm afraid you'd tell me to go read your blog!!!!!!!!!!"
The irony of the whole mix has me chuckling.
So yes, Jesse, it is an issue in our modern mommy lives!
I have the same sort of group, as you know, and I just refer to them as the Online Mommies. My dh and I have met most of them. Some of them are actually RT friends we sucked into our circle. They're definitely real to us.
I do share your love / hate for the internet. It's been a blessing, but even when I want to turn it off for a week, it's how I pay (get!) my bills, hear from my Dad, get directions etc. It's like a silent phone for me.
It's back to that balance thing. You have to have a way to use your mind while you parent the little ones. The net allows that for a lot of us. My blog is away to capture these times that I will so easily forget, but also a way to keep my friends across the country. But it also allows me to complete sentences and share ideas, which even in a women's circle I am not always allowed to do. No interruptions. No hijacks. No mockery.
While it doesn't replace that cup of coffee, the internet lets you have the contact during the stretches of time when you just can't make the time to get away.
If you withold yourself online from your RT friends because you're "saving up" for RT meetings, then for me anyway, it's the same as witholding yourself in general. You can't not answer emails because "oh I might see them later anyway," when you can't be sure that you will. I know how I get when I am depressed, and when I struggle with that, I will avoid as many people as I can. I can still type in those times, dispassionately We have to meet each other where we are.