Online friendships in the 21st century
As a person who has struggled to socialise and make friends their entire life, everything turned around for me in 2020 and I started making friends online.
A major barrier to making friends is social awkwardness. For the generation that grew up on the internet, initiating a conversation with another person can be simply overwhelming.
I was socially awkward and had very few friends in school. The stigma of being branded the "awkward kid" never really left me. And it is true, you are not the same person you were three or four years ago. When you talk to people from school, they look at you with an idea of the "you" they developed in their minds from the years of seeing you. However, when you make friends online, you get to start with a clean slate. They see you for who you are, not who you once were. I relished that and was able to be myself with new people I met online.
The pandemic fundamentally changed the way we approach, or more specifically, communicate in friendships. Texting became a major platform and we altered the way we text to express more things like tone and gestures. "Lol" went from being "laugh out loud" to indicating this brief text is not hostile.
This can take away a lot of fears for people. They might feel safer expressing themselves fully if they don't feel overwhelmed. On a personal note, I met and got to know many more people online over the past two years. It usually starts with your existing friend adding you to a group-chat with their other friends. Or there are people you are connected with on social media that you don't quite know personally. Perhaps you or they may initiate a conversation by responding to the other person's story.
However, all of this is a double-edged sword.
As a young person on the internet, your social life depends on making sure the texts you send are accurately interpreted by the recipient. The sheer volume of informal written communication is unprecedented and all of us are still learning to navigate this relatively new world.
As wonderful as it is to communicate with people, who might live far from you, it is simply not a substitute for the real thing. Video calls with your friends are great, but nothing beats hearing and seeing them in the flesh.
Furthermore, it is incredibly easy to pretend to be someone else online too. There is no shortage of predators on the prowl pretending to be your "friend". Do be careful.
Making friends online has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It has had its tumbles and pitfalls but is amazing nonetheless.
Uzayer Masud loves pretzels, capybaras and pretending to write. Send them squirrel memes at instagram.com/uzayermasud