I’m no stranger to this beautiful gift from the “god of the interwebs.” I accidentally — but wonderfully — stumbled upon a forum of sorts a few years ago. It was a time when I just recently moved to America, 6,000 miles or so away from my home country. I didn’t know anyone and I had no friends at the time. This forum became my outlet of expression.
The internet is a melting pot of diverse amazing people. It started with a simple forum post, that quickly led into a conversation with strangers that I’ve never met before, but felt like I’ve known my whole life. Forum conversations became private messages, from there you move to Skype/Yahoo (or the like) where it starts from simple chatting, to voice calls, to video chats. Once you’ve really become comfortable with your online friend, next comes the swapping of cell phone numbers.
Oh, your friend lives on the other side of the world? No worries. We have apps for that now.
I’ve made friends for life because of this process. They know my most painful secrets, have heard my real laugh, know my embarrassing stories, and know my inner nerd like the palm of their hand. I am myself when I talk to them, no holds barred. A part of it may come from the anonymity of it all. You have the ability to be whoever you want to be — even if that means being yourself.
The circumstances may be virtual, yes, but the bond that you create is real. You share a piece of you to the person on the other end of the web; laughing until your belly can’t stand the pain, crying to the point where it was almost impossible to breathe, celebrating an accomplishment, being an ear for each other’s frustrations… you share raw emotions. It’s liberating. And no questions asked, you do the same for them.
I built an online friendship with a handful of people from that forum. We added each other on messenger services, and became friends on various social media platforms. Because when you’re thousands of miles away, how else can you communicate? A community was created where we were alike, yet different as individuals at the same time. We came from different countries, we were of different races, we had different cultures, and various native tongues, yet none of them became an issue, because we didn’t make them an issue (the different time zones did kind of suck though).
Countless hours of online gameplay were spent, ‘drunk group call nights’ were held, playful banters here and there, multiple book recommendations, amazing song suggestions, and artworks were shared. Movies were started with “Okay, we press play in 3… 2… 1… GO!” It’s surreal how real it can be. And the effort? Surely touching.
I’ve seen them grow and flourish over the years. The once shy English boy who didn’t even say a single peep, became the heart of the group and found love in the most unexpected of places. The Texan girl who shares the same emotional struggles as you, and just gets you in a deeper level than most, eventually became your best friend. You’re genuinely happy to know that she is doing okay. And you’re ecstatic to know that your friend from Virginia finally hit his goal weight and is doing his best to live a healthier life. They are genuine people, with genuine feelings.
From the French mademoiselle whom you had a falling out with, only to come back up stronger in the end, to the Canadian musician with a killer playlist who striving to live his dream, to the Indian girl whom you protect and annoy like your own little sister, back to Europe to your German soul sister, all the way down under to that Aussie guy with the hot voice (and accent!), it’s a virtual global road map of unforgettable people. Anyone who has had one knows that an “online friendship” is a precious thing. We try our best to keep it intact. Our real lives do get in the way at times, but at the end of the day we know that when push comes to shove, we’re there for that person. And no difference in time zones, internet lag, or shitty cellphone service will keep us away from doing our part as their friend.