I found out that a friend of mine on Twitter tested positive for COVID-19 today. I’ve never met this person, but I was just as crushed as if he lived next door to me. And in that moment it hit me; why do we discount online friendships as something less “real” than “in real life” friendships? Why do we not consider the idea that online friends ARE real friends?
I mean, I consider online friends as real friends. But, evidently my subconscious doesn’t because I stuck an immediate quantifier on that friendship, didn’t I. You know why? Because of hearing about how online friends aren’t REAL friends, and I’m annoyed this has seeped into my subconscious. I think it’s ridiculous to have to justify to other people the nature of my or anyone’s relationships!
Online Friendships VS Offline Friendships
Why are we so quick to judge friendships or relationships based on where we’ve met them? Personally I am SICK and tired of the quantifier, “IRL” when it comes to friendships and relationships, especially THESE days. Indeed, in THESE days of pandemic and quarantine, where we DEPEND on our online friends to get us through the day when we can’t see our “in real life” loved ones.
Let’s talk about that, shall we?
How many times have you heard someone talk about “online friendships” or “online relationships” and someone else will invariably dismiss this friendship or relationship because they’re not happening “in real life”?
Well, in this day and age, I think that’s complete and utter bullshit. First of all, making “in real life” friends as an adult is ridiculous to begin with. Also? If you’re an introvert like me, I’d say making friends offline is downright impossible. So where have I found most of my friends, outside of the two I have left from the “real world?”
What Is a “Real” Friend Anyway?
That’s right, ladies, gents, and enbys, ONLINE. And I’m not the first person to think about this. An internet search will bring up articles like this one asking if online friendships are legitimate as real life friends. As for me? I say yes. Now, the pros and cons of the article are interesting, I must say. I’d like to discuss the top two “cons” of online friendship. In that, 1., people can sometimes not be who they say they are and 2., they can disappear.
Before I get into my thoughts regarding the above cons, I want to interject something while I’m thinking about it, and that is this:
NOT ALL PEOPLE YOU MEET ONLINE ARE GOING TO BE YOUR FRIEND.
For example, if you are twelve years old and you meet some grotesque forty year old pedophile asking for pictures of your unclothed person, THAT’S NOT A FRIEND.
THAT’S A PREDATOR.
Online OR in real life, that’s a predator.
Scream, STRANGER DANGER and move along.
Anyway, regarding the whole “cons” of friendships online being either catfish-y or vanish-y, I got news for you. People offline can be the biggest liars on the planet, and/or ghost you for literally no reason. Just one day, poof! Gone. So truly I think there’s not much differentiation there between online and offline friendships. Actually, I think the only difference these days between offline and online friendships is literal in that you haven’t met them in your actual, physical, waking life.
You’ve Got An Online AND Offline Friend In Me
And in THIS day and age, where you’re not supposed to be gallivanting around lest you catch the Rona, I think we should give online friendships the grace and legitimacy that we give to offline, or “in real life” friendships. Pretty much the only thing you CAN’T do with an online friend is hang out in person and let’s face it; right about now, that’s not such a good idea.
So at this point I’d like to let all my friends know that I’ll be dropping the quantifier of “online” when I talk about you. I think we need to normalize the idea that online friends are just that – friends. REAL friends. Exhibit A: One of Matthew’s friends sent us a beautiful Christmas ornament to commemorate the fact that this will be our first Christmas as husband and wife:
Notice in the tweet I didn’t say Matthew’s online friend, even though we’ve never met her or her husband. Matthew has known these folks for ten years via Facebook, and I think of the sender of this ornament and her husband as friends of the family. Because they are. No quantifier about it.
What I’m saying also goes for online relationships as well. Let me tell you something. If I hadn’t taken my started-out-online-romance seriously, I might not be typing this as a very happily married woman today. And this is why (even though apparently sometimes I do it myself) it annoys the hell out of me when I see folks dismiss online relationships and friendships as if they are something less than real.
Online Friends ARE Real Friends
So yes, Virginia, not only is there a Santa Claus, but also, online friends ARE real friends, and I will be taking no arguments on this. As an aside, if you’re going to be physically alone this holiday, PLEASE don’t discount the friends that just happen to live in your phone. Set up a zoom call. DM them. Rely on them like the friends that they are. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve done just that. I’ve been lonely more times than I can count, and know who came to my rescue?
The friends I’ve made on the Internet.
And that’s how I know that online friends ARE real friends. Like I said, from here on out, even if we’ve never met, you’re my friend. No ifs, ands, IRLs or onlines about it. No discounting quantifiers. Just friendship. And to be honest? In this day and age, I’ll take an honest friendship HOWEVER it’s offered, online OR offline.
After all, like Miss Chi Chi Rodriguez so wisely said in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar,
Thanks for reading,