This topic is one I often think about. No surprise, my job is centered around building online communities; aka making friends with strangers on the internet. When my wonderful (online) friend Nicole wrote a post about meeting me in real life, the topic etched itself further into my mind. So now I must write, to all of you, why online friendship is just as legitimate as any.
First of all, let’s take a look at today. I published a post on this blog about my awful week last week. Jack Nesmith, an awesome leader in the #SLchat community, who I have never met in person, messaged me to send me compliments on my writing, as well as encouragement to fight through the hard times. He reminded me that he thinks I am accomplished and great at what I do. That is real friendship. I may not know his favorite color, or the way his face lights up when he hears his favorite song, but I know that he will be there to support me and cheer me on in my victories and my losses. We literally “follow” each other, and that means we are along for each other’s journeys.
Secondly, this morning started off rough, and I tweeted about needing a nap already as I walked into the office. I was afraid it was going to be an unbearable day. Two friends from #SLChat tweeted at me sending me love and encouragement. Once again, I have never met any of them. But that doesn’t mean that the love I felt coming from them wasn’t real. In fact, maybe it was extra special. Neither Cassandra or Christina need to run into me at work or school or around town, so they have no reason to pretend to care. They just do, and it made me feel better to remember the amazing support system my career has given me within these communities.
These two examples are also an argument for vulnerability. I don’t like to hide things. I don’t like to not talk about when I am having a bad day. I am an extremely emotional person, and part of that is needing to talk a lot to people about what’s going on with me. I cannot pretend I am ok when I am not; it’s written all over my face. I am comfortable with this. What’s the point of hiding? My mom is a private person, and it made me go the other way. As Mary Lambert sings, I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are. Because I was super open about my struggles emotionally over the past week, I allowed others to step in and help me, and hopefully helped someone else who is feeling the same way. This doesn’t mean you have to share all the nitty gritty details, but it does mean that sharing what you feel comfortable with is allowed. If someone was going to judge me because I was anxiey-ridden for a week, then they would do it whether they read it online, or saw my face in person while I was scared and upset. And you know what they say about haters…
In further defense of online friends, let’s talk about those people you do know in real life, but know better online. I have a lot of friends who I have had maybe 2 real life chats with, but keep in constant contact with online. Be it sharing poetry, sending words of encouragement, or commenting on Buzzfeed quizzes, I consider these people just as good friends as someone I see a lot face to face. The interactions I share with them lead to joy, support, and assistance. You never know who is going to respond to a status update asking for information or help. Why purge your facebook list and delete that chance? Who might you have helped by happenstance had you not deleted them from your list? As long as I am always the same person, online and face to face, I don’t care who sees my posts. I probably would have told you at some point anyway. I am President of the Doesn’t Shut Up Club.
And so, to wrap up this long post: love your online friends, and love your in-person friends. Online we are still people, and our interactions there should have the same weight as they do face to face. Some of the best words of love and encouragement I have ever received have been through Twitter and Facebook. Let’s take the times we live in and infuse them with love, instead of reminiscing that things were better without social media, ya darn kids.
Oh, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. ;)