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When Online Friendships are Real

A couple of years ago I started reading blogs. I’d been writing a blog for a while already, and there were a few blogs I read regularly, but I’d mostly been focused on keeping my own blog going.

There are people who warn you about how fake the internet and social media are and it’s all turning our brain to mush and we’re all turning into the people in WALL-E who only stare at screens and blah blah blah. 

I certainly have my own issues with social media and its effects on society (and, not being a sociologist, I’m sure I don’t even understand all of the effects). I get how Facebook can make you feel utterly alone and make you feel like a failure sometimes. I do. I also think that it IS possible to have an addiction to the internet/social media . . . and sometimes I think I’m really close to it. I have to make the conscious choice to put technology away and engage in real-time conversations and activities. 

BUT (you knew there was a but!) in the couple of years that I’ve been perusing blogs, I’ve made friends online. And many of them don’t feel like casual acquaintances. They seem like real friends. In fact, there have been times that I’ve felt like some of my online friends have understood me more than some of my real-life friends. I have found others who seem to be experiencing the things I experience: joy, doubt, questioning, hope, angst, sorrow, rebellion, faith, beauty, struggle, and compassion. 

I met Briana, a fellow Thailand MK whose descriptions of faith and family are beautiful and haunting at the same time.

I met Sarah, who bravely engages in writing about a changing faith in the midst of raising four boys.

I met Alissa, who teaches me that it’s okay to doubt and to ask hard questions.

I met Esther, who challenges me to live a free life.

I met D.L., who helps me challenge the status quo in the best of ways.

I met Amy, another ESL professional and writer who helps me look at culture through a new lens.

I met Marilyn, who writes about Orthodoxy and cross-cultural life and understands what it is like to be a third culture kid.

I met Susan, a fellow Orthodox Christian and writer who has guided me as a spiritual and writing mentor of sorts.

I met Rachel, who is also an ESL teacher and who forces me to look past the face value of things.

I could go on. My point is: These online personas have become real to me. I have had email conversations with many of them. There are interactions on blogs and Twitter and in private Facebook groups. There are outpourings sometimes. There are raw, vulnerable words of truth and kind, loving words of comfort. There are admissions and confessions and affirmations and understandings. All of these things take place over the internet. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that these are real relationships that encourage me on almost a daily basis.

So yes, I can agree to some dangers of the internet and social media. But on the flip side, my online friends have helped me keep my sanity more times than I can count. Their words have given me a light when I felt like no one could see me in the dark. Their spirits have given me hope when I felt like no one understood.

The internet has given me a gift, and it’s the gift of friendship. And I am thankful. 

 

 

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8 comments

  1. Briana Meade says:

    I’m so proud to be on this list, basically beaming. It’s been astonishing to me too! I went into this blogging thing as a nervous and self-focused person who thought she didn’t belong anywhere. Now I’ve found my tribe–my people who struggle and hope, write and love. And I couldn’t be more thrilled–or surprised. Especially as so many of us are introverts! Who would have thunk?
    :-)

  2. Cassie Hansen says:

    I am much more real via the internet than I am in person. I can email someone something that is filled with heart and pain and joy, and in person I barely make eye contact. None of my in-person interactions are the time or place for anything more than superficial conversation, which makes me feel like I am 2 completely different people. It drives me nuts, but I haven’t yet figured out how to “fix” it.

    So yes, the internet can bring wonderful gifts of friendship. It, like everything else, is what we make of it! :)

    • kksorrell says:

      Good point, Cassie. I feel like even my real-life friends and I often interact more online than in person. (Case in point – you and me!!!) I tend to have a lot of FB message conversations and email conversations with my real-life friends.

  3. Dan McDonald says:

    I think for me the social media has been something of a half-way house for my recovering human connections. I was already withdrawn into a small church, a small amount of time for fellowship, work, and a family a couple of states away. Making connections first through Facebook and then on Twitter widened my horizons, brighten my attitude, and brought changes in how I view my world – its wider, broader, more diversified than a couple of years ago. So for me opening up on social media helped me open up a little more in everyday life. Through twitter, someone I had never met said he would be speaking at a conference I knew nothing of in my home city. I went to the conference and met “real” people. They have a service on a Saturday night, so occasionally I go and visit the church that hosted the conference. Maybe it can be addictive, maybe it can be fake at times, but it can also give someone a fresh perspective and open up new vistas that affect real life.

    • kksorrell says:

      That’s awesome, Dan! I agree that Twitter really opened my world . . it introduced me to most of these people and also it improved my writing . . . that might be worth a blog post, too! Social media can really bring us together in unique ways.

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