1. Yes, we really do know each other. When you refer to someone as your “friend,” and they’re like, “Wait, which friend is this?” and you have to explain that the two of you actually only know each other online, people will always insist that you don’t know each other. But thousands of hours of messages, phone calls, and Skype sessions would beg to differ. You definitely can know someone you’ve never met IRL, and often you know them better than people you see every day.
2. Yes, I am sure they aren’t a creepy old man. This fear is very internet-circa-10,000-free-AOL-hours, but somehow people still have it. If you’re a grown person who happens to have a friend made through the internet, at least one person (particularly older family members) are going to insist that you are being trapped/hoodwinked by some nefarious old man. Yes, Aunt Karen, it’s all a big conspiracy.
3. No, we don’t spend all our time talking shit about our IRL friends. Okay, yes, you spend some of your time shit-talking everything that’s going on IRL. But this does not mean that the entire friendship is based on having someone to complain about your roommate/SO/IRL BFF to without them knowing about the situation. In fact, most Internet Soulmate conversations have nothing to do with what is going on in real life, and that’s what is so great about them. It can be a total disconnect from everything you have to deal with in your day-to-day life.
4. No, we haven’t met, but that doesn’t matter. I have also never met Tom Hiddleston, but I don’t need to, I already know that I will love him. It is the same with an Internet Soulmate.
5. We met… online. It’s still got a weird stigma about it (amongst people who aren’t cool), and telling someone, “Yes, this person I hope to one day invite to my wedding… I met them on Tumblr” can be a bit of a mixed bag, in terms of reaction. And sometimes you are inclined to make up a lie about how you met “Oh, through a friend of a friend… of a friend… of a cousin.” But it’s always better to tell the truth, honestly.
6. Social media is the equivalent of hanging out in person. You don’t actually get to spend time with each other, so checking in regularly on their social media is the equivalent of being around when they go out with their friends. You get to see what they’re doing, who they’re hanging out with, and whether or not they are having a good time. Opening up an IS conversation with “Saw you went to [insert bar here] on Instagram last night… how was it?” is totally normal. It’s not creeping, it’s demonstrating affection.
7. Care packages are the engagement rings of the Internet Soulmates. There is no moment more exciting than finally receiving that long-coveted Internet Soulmate care package. This goes triple if they live in another country, in which case you are in for a month’s worth of fanciful candies and junk foods you’ve never heard of. If the two of you are sending care packages, things are getting serious.
8. They are not a “complete stranger.” Nothing worse than when someone refers to a deep, meaningful internet friend connection as being “a stranger.” We really need to upgrade our definition of digital relationship in society, it’s 2014, and it’s borderline offensive.
9. The greatest guilt of all comes from not checking in on each other for a while. If you just tell someone, “I have to get home and Skype with my Soulmate I only know over the internet because we haven’t spoken in almost three weeks and she’s about to go on a vacation with her family,” you will look insane. But this is perfectly normal. And explaining to friends that keeping tabs on them is essential is an ongoing battle, because they don’t understand the degree to which it takes work to keep someone 1,000 miles away as a functional part of your life. And the guilt you feel when you haven’t checked in lately is unmatched.
10. Plane tickets become your biggest enemy. Half of your life is spent on Kayak.com, and the other half is spent crying.
11. No one will ever really get it, but that’s okay. No matter how much you take the initiative to explain to friends and family what this relationship really means to you, no one will ever really understand, unless they have also had an Internet Soulmate. They don’t get the work, the commitment, or the deep reward. But one day your IS will arrive on that discount airline, and the two of you will roll into your local bar, and all your IRL friends will be like “Oh, shit, she DOES exist!” and you will just put on your sunglasses indoors and float away through the window. Because you always knew, and they just need to catch up with the times.