This is a shoutout to my online friendships and to those who have since become offline friendships, worth their weight in gold. The year is 2018: everything we do from adjusting our central heating whilst 56 miles from home to browsing Pinterest in search of a way to get bronzer out of the rental carpet (true story) is dictated by technology. It’s surely almost beyond inevitable that our relationships too will find a way to become intrinsically bound within the online society that we live within, so why is it that some people are still a bit funny about making friends on the internet? Choosing a potential hook-up/partner/life long boo with a quick flick left or right has become pretty standard, and whilst there’s no Tinder for BFF’s (yet – wouldn’t that be bloody cool though, if you could find mates near you with similar interests?) the rise of social media means that a lot of us spend more time absorbed into the lives of total strangers than we do our ‘real life’ friends. Over the past year I’ve made friendships online that I hope will hang about for…well until they get a bit sick of the fact I’m always 10 minutes late and I only drink Earl Grey tea (shoutout to Chelsea who keeps a box in her cupboard purely for her high maintenance gal pal). I don’t even think twice anymore about chatting away to virtual strangers and eventually meeting those I really click with for coffee. We put so much out there that actually, through the medium of little squares, blogs like this and 280 characters we learn so much about others that they don’t feel like strangers at all.
On the internet, we can be whoever we want to be; we are not shackled by the girl we were at secondary school or even necessarily by geography and convenience. Obviously that comes with as a many dangers as it does wonders and the importance of online safety is still incredibly rife. Thankfully though, I haven’t been Cat Fished over brunch yet. Our ‘offline’ friendships tend to be categorised temporally; family friends, childhood friends, school friends, uni friends, work friends. Often friendships – however strong – are born out of being flung together or simply in the same place at the same time. I met one of my closest friends because our primary school teacher asked her look after me on my first day, another because our mums are friends, and another because we worked on a shop floor together. In contrast, my online friendships have been born out of a mutual appreciation of the same thing or a shared interest that has led us to find one another. It’s an entirely different way of getting to know somebody but whenever I’ve sat across from an online pal for the first time over wine or coffee, or at an event, it has never felt even remotely like meeting a stranger. Actually, we’re usually chatting at a million and five miles an hour from the moment we sit down; simply carrying on conversations that began within an inbox, in person. The thing is, when you follow someone for a sustained period you tend to experience more of their life than you’re likely to if you’ve known them since year 8 maths. I have literally watched insta-pals announce pregnancies, give birth (okay, I did not literally watch this – that would be taking ‘live’ well beyond its remits), raise kids, travel the world, graduate and experience the highs and lows of every day life. They choose to share all of the above online – just as I do too – and in doing so you open yourself up to others.
I know for some the concept might be entirely alien, or such friendships might seem rather fickle. It couldn’t be more the opposite; through making friends based on shared interests I’ve discovered a deeper sense of mutual-understanding for one another tends to occur. You’re not just friends because your mum arranged a play date when you were 7, but because you actively chose to become part of one another’s lives. That doesn’t mean that the mates you made before the internet was really a thing in the way it is now are redundant, far from it. There’s equally a lot to be said for someone who has known you and watched you grow up: they’ve met your mum, they were there for you during The Fringe Episode of 2009 and whatever the meet cute, you did choose to remain friends. Actually, I feel very lucky. In the last year, in addition to the beautiful friends I have offline, I’ve met some absolute gems that I just wouldn’t even know existed if it wasn’t for the internet, and for the blogging community. In addition, I have a host of pals on the internet; there are offers of wine from all around the globe and it’s very difficult to ever feel lonely when you’ve got a whole host of wonderful people cheerleading you, suggesting their favourite face creams and seemingly genuinely willing you to succeed.
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