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Online friends are real friends

I want to talk about internet friends. At the start of strangers meeting and chatting online, it was more about warnings of predators and staying safe. And that is still a thing today, but it has long stopped being the primary thing.

This might also be a generational view to the internet, but as we have grown older we have taken on new customs to online hangouts. It's not that we have become less careful really, and more that we stopped thinking of only the dangers. We grew up being taught how to keep ourselves safe, and now it is just second nature.

I can't confidently say that this goes for everyone my age who talk to others via the internet, but I know at least for myself and a good number of my internet friends that we have more than one identity. There is who we are in person, and who we are online. We give ourselves nicknames and choose the information we tell about ourselves carefully. These identities aren't totally separate. The best way I can think to describe it is like looking at the same picture set to different filters.

Just a handful of years ago, online friends weren't taken as seriously. And with the previous worry of dangers, it is fair. But now, many of us, the friends we meet online can be majorly important parts of our support systems. We share our joys and our troubles, and we bond over similar interests. We talk to each other for years, and go from texting to phone calls to video chats. We really do truly become friends. Just because we haven't met in the flesh doesn't do anything to minimize that bond.

And sometimes some of us get lucky. Circumstances finally line up or moves are finally made to bridge that last gap and get together in person.

I've been lucky enough to meet several of the friends I have met online in person, and each time it has come totally natural to erase that imaginary line. It doesn't feel like meeting for the first time, it feels more like catching up with an old friend. We talk like we just saw each other last week, and laugh at our silly inside jokes born over the time we have gotten to know each other. There stopped being a difference between friends you know in the flesh and friends you meet online. This can still be really difficult to explain to others sometimes, but in the end we know what our friendships mean.

To my dear friend that I recently got the pleasure of meeting for lunch for the first time, it was so wonderful to bridge that gap with you, and I am so glad we were able to do so. And thank you, my dear Auden E. for letting me show off your artwork in this post. Hope we can do it again soon.

And to all the friends I have yet to get to meet in person, I look forward to the day we do.

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