Often, when I’m at a party with one of my best friends, someone will ask us how we met and be incredulous when we say, “On Twitter.” Usually by this point, they’ve spent half an hour or so with us and been privy to our in-jokes, our easy chat, our physical and mental closeness – basically, the fact that our friendship is amazing – and they can’t seem to get their heads around the fact that a friendship as good and close as this started on something as impersonal as the internet.
It’s an old-fashioned view. As the internet stopped being a thing we go on occasionally to buy things or look up cinema times, and started being a normal part of our lives, internet friendships became more common. And they’re no less important to us just because they were started online. This is something CaShawn Thompson pointed out on Twitter when she asked: “What have you gained from your interactions with ppl on this & other platforms?”
Thompson says that without her friends on Twitter, her daughter wouldn’t have been able to go to college. She wasn’t working when her daughter, Tee, left high school, but her online friends supported her and bought everything on her wish list. Then, when they needed to crowdfund Tee’s last semester at college, Thompson’s online friends supported her again.
And soon other people joined in with stories of the ways in which their lives had been enriched by their online friendships:
Personally, I spent 20 years trying to find people I truly connected with. When I finally did, I found them online – and promptly moved halfway across the country, from Coventry to London, to be closer to them. They’ve helped me in so many ways, from introducing me to new food, to helping me prepare for new jobs, to increasing my confidence, to holding my hand (sometimes literally) when I went to the doctor for mental-health problems, to making me laugh until my stomach aches and I slide off my chair and on to the floor. There are people I’ve never been in the same room with whom I frequently chat to about how their kids are getting on and who send me gifts on my birthday. They’re my friends, basically. My best, most brilliant friends.
My online friendships bring so much to my life. The internet has helped me to connect with people I would never have otherwise met and it’s a wonderful tool for meeting people who are going to make your life better. It’s not weird any more, it’s just a part of our lives – and it’s one I will be forever grateful for.