People who don’t spend a lot of time online have a hard time understanding online friendships. They will often warn those of us who do have online friends of all the negatives associated with meeting strangers online and are suspicious of their intentions. Granted there is a lot of lying, deceit and cheating going on online today. Every day new scams are being hatched to lure in unsuspecting, trusting, lonely souls. But, everyday new friendships are also being made. Genuine friendships, fast friendships, true friendships.
The reason people can afford to lie, cheat and deceive online is the same reason why close friendships develop. The ability to remain somewhat anonymous and protected by a computer screen. People drop their guard when they are online despite all the warnings that you need to protect yourself. It makes you more vulnerable to scams and allows you to become more intimate in your personal conversations with strangers than you ever would be in your real life. Consequently, friendships develop at a much higher rate of speed through the daily sharing of your life and interests. Communication and connecting with people is far more easier online then face to face.
When you think about it, if you have online friends, you spend a lot of time chatting with them throughout the day. When you aren’t chatting you are sharing what is going on in your life through Facebook status updates. In no time at all you can feel like you’ve known someone for years when it‘s just been a few weeks, or even less. The ability and ease of being able to communicate on a frequent, and regular basis is what allows us to form these relationships and bonds that start out as a friendly exchange and quickly develop into real and long lasting friendships.
The other day, a woman who I never saw or spoke to online, picked me out of a chat forum, to friend on Facebook. I wasn’t going to friend her, but then she instant messaged me and we started to chat. In a few minutes I learned that we grew up in the same neighborhoods and attended the same elementary, junior high, and high schools as I did. Although we are a few years apart, we quickly established a connection out of the blue. Turns out her family’s roots are from the same part of Sicily as my family’s. What are the odds of that? While we were chatting, her husband walked in and was already concerned that she was laughing and talking to a stranger online. We ended with agreeing to try to meet at some point when she was visiting in my neighborhood. Things like this happen every day online.
I consider my online friends “real” friends in every sense of the word. We have helped each other through hard times and celebrated good times together. We pray for each other, laugh together, cry together, conspire together, gossip together, share our lives, thoughts, interests and fears together. We share recipes, pictures, our birthdays. We support and encourage each other,, advise each other, and love each other sight unseen. It’s a connection like no other and it’s very real.
My online friends have been there for me through some very difficult times and helped me to get through them. They are as real as it gets. It’s even more than a community, it’s a family. I just hope they all know how much I appreciate them.