Growing up as someone who didn’t have many friends, I found comfort online through connecting and conversing with kids around my age about our mutual interests, such as favorite actors, movies and characters.
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The realization of the people behind the screen
When I first started making friends online, I didn’t fully realize that it was real people I was talking to, real people who wanted to talk about topics I actually liked. The more I’d converse with these people, the more it would settle in that these aren’t faceless beings; each online friend has a whole life beyond the screen.
They have days where all they want to do is scream into their pillow or jump with excitement. Moments where they want to rant and times where they just want to remain silent and think.
They have responsibilities to tend to, activities they enjoy and topics they’re passionate about. They have friends and family, hobbies, loving memories, terrible moments and emotions that they’re trying to understand, just like everyone else.
The realization that everyone you interact with online deals with the same things you do isn’t the easiest concept to grasp, especially when you realize all that encompasses. Even years later, it’s not something my parents fully understand. My mom, who disapproves of excessive interaction with people online, hasn’t fully grasped that there’s a person behind the screen that I talk to with a personality that extends beyond what we know about them. The conclusion of this topic is usually that talking to anyone online is always “unsafe and not worth the risk,” however I couldn’t help but disagree.
The feeling of making online friends
I’ve experienced every emotion in the book when it comes to talking to people online, whether it be love, laughter, anger, sadness or irritation. Yet, I wouldn’t trade this form of conversation for anything (besides meeting these people in person). Having friends online allowed for younger me to find an outlet and connect with people who I can navigate conversations with and not feel like I’m doing something wrong. Though there are definitely dangers that can come with the territory of talking to others online (such as catfishing), being wary of who you talk to – and making sure to not overshare information about yourself – can open up a world of friendships and connections.
I have friends online that I met when I was 11-13, and am still close with to this day. It can be frustrating not having them in person with me in times when I want to share exciting news or have a shoulder to lean on, but this experience has brought me so many more pros than cons.
Online friends introduce you to new perspectives
Being an introvert my whole life, I have always struggled to make friends and had even entered a new school right before talking to my, now oldest, online friend for the first time. Meeting kids around my age online let me get out all that conversation I couldn’t get myself to make at school. It allowed me to get advice from others in situations – whether it be small issues like how to talk to someone I like or more pressing matters, such as a life-altering decision. I understand that it’s important to talk to those around you, but online relationships allow you to learn about the way others live and view their lives, or the concept of life in general. You’re able to cover more ground and see the culture differences (even if the other individual is just a few states away, it can be surprising and amusing how different the social standards and culture can be). I know I’m not the only one who struggles talking to those I know in real life about topics that extend beyond surface level, but with developing relationships with others online, I’m able to go more into detail with topics that I struggle to express my feelings on usually.
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Despite the effort, online friends are worth it
I understand that it can be difficult to develop real relationships with people online, especially when the concept of them also having their own lives outside of the internet is difficult to grasp, but that doesn’t diminish the unique experience of discovering and gaining a whole new community. I warn those who are eager to venture out and connect with those behind the screen to proceed with caution. Not everyone’s who they say they are and there are dangers that shouldn’t be ignored. Though I have been lucky to not encounter people like this – to my knowledge, of course – It’s still crucial to keep this reminder in the back of your head and steer away from anyone you get a bad vibe from.
With this being said, when you find those few that you instantly connect with, it can form an entertaining and life-lasting experience, especially when you realize you would have never known of this person if it wasn’t for these interactions behind the screen. Sometimes, talking to others online and forming close and real relationships can hold some of the best friendships one can have, making all the time and effort spent worth it.
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