This week, in my Friendship Project series, I’m talking about social media friends and how sometimes, if you are lucky, they become true friends. I’ll reference something called the “social internet” several times here. By that, I mean any means to socialize through online interaction – chat rooms, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
In the late ‘90s when chat rooms were catching on in popularity, ‘meeting’ people online was still a little… sketchy. I vaguely remember ever seeing the same usernames in a chat room from one day to the next. It seemed like trolling was all the rage back then. Establishing real relationships of any kind was rare.
Back then, meeting people on the internet was considered creepy. I have a friend from high school who met his wife in an online chat room back in the late ‘90s. It took me years to realize that this wasn’t strange. I was super judgmental of their relationship at the time, but it worked out for them and they are still together. And if you really think about it, getting to know someone virtually first can be a great way to screen people, right?
Online life is completely different now and things have evolved so much in the past 15 years. Back in my dial-up and Netscape Navigator days, I never would have imagined that real humans existed beyond those catchy screen names. But I could see its purpose and I stuck with the social internet not knowing where it would lead me. If I hadn’t, I never would have found my best friend from High School back in 2002. She and I are polar opposites, but soul mates at the same time. We had lost touch for almost 10 years and, one day, bored at work, I looked her up online. When I found her MySpace page, I cried at my desk. I thought there was no way I would ever be able to find her again. To this day, we keep in touch as often as we can and my life is so much richer for that.
Without the social internet, I never would have found my mom after 16 years of separation. When I finally got the nerve to look her up on Google back in 2006, it took about five minutes to find her. I had just found out I was pregnant with Ava and it seemed like the perfect time to reconnect. Things were a bit awkward at first, but six years later we are coming out of our fog and into a stronger relationship.
Finally, if I had not dabbled in Twitter two years ago, I would never have met one of my current besties. I can honestly say that she’s my long lost sister. We just connected instantly and when we met in person, it was like we had known each other all our lives. And while we see each other as often as we can, we still use Twitter to communicate. Why mess with a good thing, right?
And as I’m working to expand my blog an online presence, I find myself overwhelmed with the amount of personable and accessible people that I come across each day. I want to get to know everyone. Have wine with them. And slumber parties. Seriously, meeting people online is no longer creepy. It’s real. The people behind the catchy screen names are real (for the most part). So the next time you are hesitant to stick your toe in the waters of the social internet, come on in – the water is just fine.