Have you noticed that with technology our friend circles have drastically increased? And I’m not talking about Facebook friends who you never talk to (that’s a post for another day) but real friends that you can turn to without question or have you spitting out your drink with laughter? No? Then maybe you need to get online more because the people I’m talking about are ‘internet friends’.
Well, YOU might call them internet friends since a lot of them I haven’t met but for me, they’re real friends whether we talk online or in person (or a mix of both if we connect on Skype). I name-drop them in conversations with other friends, we have in-jokes, we share advice or a listening ear when we need to; they are no different to the friends I have made at home, there’s just a little physical distance between us.
The problem with my ‘internet friendships’ comes when I have to explain them to ‘real’ friends and family. ‘But how can they be your friend if you’ve never met them?’ ‘What do you really have to talk about’? The list is endless and you know what, a few years ago I would have understood the questions. I was lucky enough to grow up with a computer in my house meaning that I was one of the first people I knew to get the internet when it became readily available. This then meant that I was in chat-rooms aged 13 making friends; such good friends that they (and their parents) travelled for miles so that we could meet each other. Even family members thought I was weird for ‘believing’ that anyone on the internet could be a) real b) a true friend c) free of serial killer tendencies.
Times have changed and technology has become a daily part of our lives without us even realising and yet people still question how a friend online can be called a friend at all. It’s called conversation and effort.
When I spoke to a friend about it she explained it perfectly when she said:
“I forget that my internet friends are just as real and important to me as the friends I grew up with (if not more important sometimes!)”. Never a truer word has been spoken.
When I was going through my breakdown, as I often wasn’t well enough to even leave the house, my ‘internet’ friends became one of the most important things I had and without them and the technology to be in touch with my best friend at home all the time, I would have struggled to keep my head above water. They became my lifeline. My joke-tellers. My voice of reason. The people I turned to when I had no-one else. You can’t let me tell you that and question whether or not they are true friends.
I may never meet some of my friends but doesn’t mean I don’t carry them around with me in conversations or in technology that’s sat in my bag. My ‘physical’ friends are great, truly, but when I was sick a couple of years ago, my internet friends became more important in some respects; possibly because I could always reach them. I could have breakfast AND dinner with my friend in New Zealand because of Skype, I could talk to travelling friends during the middle of the day when I needed to feel a connection and I could be in touch at 4am when my insomnia tortured me another night. That doesn’t meant that my ‘real’ friends were any less important to me as a whole but we all become more and less useful to each other at certain points in friendships.
We all seek different things from friendships at different times according to how we’re feeling or what our situations are but realising that our friends are not defined by ‘real’ or ‘internet’ is the key to appreciating all the friendships that we are lucky enough to be part of. It doesn’t matter if you’re the other side of the world or just up the road; I’m still your friend.
So how about we stop calling each other ‘real’ or ‘internet’ friends and just accept that friendships come from all over the place and include a huge variety of people.
We’re just as special as each other