“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg, even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.”— Bernard Meltzer
I have a weird relationship with internet friendships. I’m not sure what generation I come from, it depends on who you ask, but it was a generation that grew up both with and without the internet. In the beginning, the world wide web was a vast and mysterious place. You heard stories of all sorts of bad things happening to people who trusted too much on the internet.
Fast forward to today and we post the most intimate moments of our lives for all the world to see. Pictures and videos of our faces, our lives, and our families. Every private thought that jumps into our heads. I have discussed period cramps on my Twitter feed. We share everything.
It may sound like I’m railing, but I’m not. For an over sharer like me, it feels like home here. In fact, while getting ready for this piece, I realized that I have a long history of expressing myself on the internet. Not only have a I pretty much always saw it is a great way to scream into the ether, but I found quickly that it was a great place to connect with like minds.
Enter internet friendships.
Internet Friendships In The Beginning
Because of the world I grew up in, I have a healthy suspicion when it comes to internet friendships. Something about it feels unsafe. At the same time, I’ve always used the internet to find like-minded companionship. My first real internet friendships were made on a message board. A Josh Hartnett message board, in fact.
We were a gaggle of girls who had massive crushes on the hot, young celebrity of the day. But we somehow bonded over that. With daily posts, sometimes several a day, I started to make connections. One such connection stood out…a girl from Sweden named Fia. I was 18 and she was 16 or 17.
For a few years, our paths didn’t cross. Then came MySpace and we were back in each other’s lives. It’s been 22 years and Fia and I are still friends. We have watched each other grow up; start careers, get married, have kids. All of it. I cherish our friendship and I love how it was built.
In my 20s there was the dark New day message board and even a period of time when I frequented the Kindle message board on the Amazon website, in case you were wondering how much of a nerd I am. MySpace was my first experience of fully, loudly expressing myself, as myself and to people who knew me. It was also the first time that I blogged with regularity.
My Facebook is private, so it was mostly people that I already knew and I used that exclusively, for years. But then 2020 happened. I would like to say that 2020 was the year I became isolated, with everyone else. Truth is, I had been isolated for quite a long time.
My core in-person friend group moved away to different states years ago, so we were already keeping up with each other via the internet. Through a series of unfortunate events, the rest of my in-person friends were culled off. I’ve worked from home for 8 years, so I don’t make friends at the office. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.
No, 2020 saw no change in my life, really. Except I decided to start this blog. I knew I would need a Twitter account to be successful and Twitter changed everything, especially when it comes to my internet friendships.
I talked to multiple people from Twitter about their internet friendships. They all had one thing in common: They all met their best friend on the internet. Over and over I heard, “I don’t know what I’d do without them,” and, “They got me through the toughest time of my life.” It got me thinking about my own relationships of the day…how do I really feel about my internet friendships.
So, 2020 was a bummer in a lot of ways. For a lot of people, 2021 was even worse. For me, personally, those two years were filled with personal growth. Lots of therapy, lots of soul-searching. I did my best to share that journey online through the blog and my Twitter account. What I didn’t account for were the connections that I would make.
My therapist immediately started pressing me to “network.” I didn’t really know what that meant. At first I found Twitter to be very intimidating. I hadn’t found my voice there yet, but I trepidaciously started posting and interacting with other people. I’m really the type of person who can’t shut up, so I found my place fairly quickly.
I have made a myriad of connections and friendships on Twitter in the last year, but there are two situations that I want to highlight.
First, I saw a post one day about an ADHD Zoom “party” that had been going on since the start of the pandemic. I was very interested, but social anxiety held me back for a couple of weeks. I finally said, “Fuck it.” I booked in and vowed to myself that I would step out of my comfort zone and go see what it was all about.
I’m so glad that I did. I have logged on to that call almost every Friday night for about a year now. I call the people there my friends. They have become a part of my support network; people that I know would have my back if they were needed. Most importantly, we share a bond because we understand each other. We have the same traumas, the same experiences. We all know what it’s like.
We’re a ragtag group of folks who just happen to have a lot in common.
If you’re interested in coming to the ADHD Party, it’s open to all neurodivergent people and it happens every Friday night (Saturday morning for some people), you can book on the ADHD Hive website. I highly recommend it. It’s a no pressure situation. You can leave your camera and mic off, communicate using the chat, or not at all. It’s a very accepting and safe environment.
Another example of internet friendships affecting my every day life this year, is my amazing, beautiful, talented friend…Victoria St. Michael (@vicstmichael on Twitter). Victoria is a writer and fellow blogger and she is absolutely brilliant. I first noticed her on Twitter because she was always on other people’s posts, spreading support and positivity. She speaks out about things that she feels are wrong in the world and she writes like a dream.
I reached out to her one day after being prodded, again, by my therapist to make connections. I liked Vic’s energy and I had a feeling we would be good friends, so I sparked up a conversation via DMs. Turns out, we had a lot in common, so we took our friendship over to Facebook. We talk almost every day and I honestly do no know what I would do without her.
She has been a sounding board, a safety net, and a brainstorming partner. She has so much compassion and love and she is fiercely protective of her friends, online or otherwise. Trust me y’all…she will proverbially cut a bitch. I have messaged her in tears, in a panic, and with my very best, top-secret news.
I’m more open with her than a lot of the people in my in-person interactions. First of all, she is a completely non-judgemental ear. I believe that we know each other’s hearts and that’s why we get along so well. We’re very similar in so many ways. I count her among my very best friends and closest confidants.
Sadly, Vic and I live in different countries. We joke that we are the American/Canadian version of each other because we’re so similar. It’s likely, though, that we may never meet face to face. We daydream about it and we hope that it will happen one day, but you never can tell with these things.
So, does that make her love and support mean less than someone who can meet me for dinner? I definitely don’t think so. In fact, as I said before, I’m more myself with her. I don’t know why, but there’s some sort of pretext you have to cut through in person that isn’t there in internet friendships. Something about not being face to face that makes you open up more quickly.
More Than Internet Friendships
What about when internet friendships turn into…more than friendship? I talked to one woman who found herself in just that situation. She asked that she remain anon, so will call her Jill and him Jack. One day, a picture caught her eye and she impulsively sent a message to the handsome man who posted it.
“I wasn’t expecting much,” she told me, “I had just come through a contentious divorce and I really don’t know why I reached out. It was sort of out of character and I never would have approached him in real life.” But, she did. What she found was an easy bit of conversation. Not only was he stunningly attractive, but he was also smart, well-spoken, and empathetic.
She told me that she felt like the fact that they weren’t face-to-face made it easier to open up to each other. She felt comfortable and safe when talking to him. “We started talking on the phone and our conversations were nothing short of magical,” she said.
“He was perfect, in every important way,” she wrote, “Literally the man of my dreams. I fell for him fast and hard.”
Jill wasn’t sure how to feel about that. She came from the same generation as me, carried the same healthy distrust. “I felt like I was in a romantic comedy or a romance novel,” she said.
There is no ending to Jack and Jill’s story. They’ve talked every, single day for the last four months and they enjoy each other immensely. They’ve shared personal, intimate moments together. But they’ve never met face-to-face. Likely, they never will.
Jack and Jill live on separate continents. They have found an amazing, beautiful human connection and can’t act on it due to distance.
“We’re very aware of our limitations, painfully at times,” she wrote, “It’s human nature to want to touch the people that we care about. It’s in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The stronger my feelings get, the more the need grows.” Somehow, they deal with it nicely. Who knows what the future holds for them?
She was sure to stress that they don’t hold each other to any kind of commitment or promises. Life can turn on a dime and, with so much distance, you never know what can happen. “We try to focus on the moment instead of worrying about what happens next. In this moment, we make each other smile and that’s not a small thing in this world.”
When I emailed her back and asked her for her overall impression of internet friendships, Jill said, “Internet friendships? They are a-ok in my book. If there was no internet, there would be no Jack and Jill. Just be careful who you give yourself to.”
In my book, internet friendships are not only valid, but important to some of us. When I was writing my novel, I don’t know what I would have done without Vic. I’ve been going through a lot lately and she is an absolute rock in my life. I love her dearly for what she has offered me which is pure friendship based solely off of the real me.
Honestly, my entire social calendar is online, at this point. I’ve not given up on making IRL friends. That said, my internet friendships provide me with the support, love, and belonging that I’ve always craved.
You might even be like Jack and Jill and find “more than” friendship.
One thing that I think it’s important to remember about the internet is that you get out of it what you put in to it. Don’t get me wrong, trouble can and will find you sometimes. But sometimes your experience is based on who you let into your little world as much as how you’re interacting.
For years, I used Twitter as a way to argue with people about politics. I have really bad social anxiety so when something even slightly political would start doing well, I’d panic. There were times it got so bad that I had to delete that app off my phone to keep myself from worrying about it.
I didn’t start making true internet friendships until I dropped all the animosity, started talking about the things I’m passionate about, and started engaging from a place of love instead of from a place of anger. My whole experience has been transformed and I’m grateful for the change.
So, all that to say…Get you some internet friendships!
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