‘They’re not your real friends, you will never meet them. There are no real emotions, it’s hollow’ said a friend of mine about internet friends. It made me boil with anger. The same rage fills me up every time when someone says ‘What if it’s a fake profile?’ when I tell them about my Facebook friends. Acceptable or not, online relationships have been something I’ve often thought about, I’ve often wondered if they’re better than irl friends.
As opposed to my real life friends, I might never know what an online friend actually looks like irl, their address, or what they smell like, or if they come from a rich family. However, I do know things about them that I wouldn’t know about my real friends. Superficial details aside, I know what their real thoughts and feelings are, I am more well-acquainted with their likes, dislikes and points of view than those who are physically present around them. I often find it bewildering how I find it much easier to vent to an online friend rather than to an irl friend or even to a family member. Part of the reason is that I know that an internet friend will never bitch about me neither will they judge me because they themselves have gone through similar phases and the lack of fear of social stigma, which often leads to heavy unpleasant judgements in real life, will allow them to vent out to you as well instead of deriding your feelings by projecting their insecurities which often happens with the ‘real’ social circle.
Venting to an online friend comes with no cost. There are no responsibilities attached. Sometimes the person you are venting to might develop a deep connection with you, other times the process might just end up being severely impersonal. All it comes down to is finding the right person you want to develop a friendship with. Again, finding like-minded people online is far easier than in real life. We often find ourselves surrounded by people we can’t relate to one bit and yet the ‘friendship’ drags on as a part of some social obligation. This problem doesn’t arise online, like a particular genre of music? Get on a music group, like a particular celebrity? get on their fan forum, follower of a particular ideology?, it’s pretty easy to find people with mutual interests. Another great aspect of online relationships is that since there are no responsibilities attached, you can break free from the relationship whenever you desire without any drama or the awkwardness of meeting the person in public. Once you block the person, it ends the relationship forever. For good.
Hollow or not, I do not care. I love meeting new people online, much more than in real life. I don’t have to constantly worry about how I’m dressed or how I smell or about acne when I’m speaking to someone online. I get to meet people from the most diverse societies, cultures with really interesting religious and art history. I see people who are discriminated in real life and are severely depressed but they find solace in online communities where they are appreciated for what they actually are. The online world is a part of our reality and the social component is a very essential part of this reality. I’d rather have a conversation with someone online that I share mutual understanding with than be with someone irl who sugarcoats their words but hold grudges against me inside. It doesn’t matter to me how far they might be from me physically, mentally they’re in my arms holding on to me tightly and making me feel beautiful.