Internet friendships are weird. They used to be so simple! People used to just message back and forth on fan-fic forums, Tumblr, or Gaia Online and that would pretty much be the extent of the relationship. Now there are way more layers to internet friendships that even cross over into becoming “real life” friendships. This progression from being internet friends to being “real life” friends is quite the convoluted process.
“There are way more layers to internet friendships.”
I basically grew up online, so I’ve been talking to strangers and making friends on the internet for a while now. And the main place where I’ve started developing relationships has been on YouTube. A lot of my internet friendships start with a simple comment on someone’s video. I’ll comment on their video, they’ll comment on mine and then that usually repeats itself for months.
After a series of back and forth compliments on videos for weeks, maybe months, or even years, I might find this person on twitter. That’s when you know you’re taking your internet friendship to the next level, when you cross over to different social media websites. I mean the true marks of a friendship are following each other back on twitter and instagram, right?
“A lot of my internet friendships start with a simple comment.”
But how do you make this surface level friendship into a “real life” friendship? Here is the progression I’ve seen of being internet friends to becoming “real life” friends:
✭ Commenting on YouTube videos
⇥ Following on Twitter and Instagram
⇥ Occasional @ replies on twitter
⇥ Google Hangouts/Skyping
⇥ Facebook friends/Texting buddies
⇥ Meeting & hanging out IRL at conferences like VidCon
⇥ Going out of your way to visit them and hangout ✭
This is the progression that I have seen in practically all of my internet friends who I now hang out with semi-frequently. Some of these steps might get skipped or switch order. But this is the normal route that I’ve taken and most of my friends have told me they’ve experienced as well.
This begs the question: Why are there so many freaking steps to becoming friends!!!
I think the main reason there tends to be so many steps is because internet people are usually hesitant creatures and are shy around new people, so they like to edge themselves into relationships. A part of me is glad that there the process of making an internet friend a “real life” friend takes so long. Because I’ve tried to rush internet relationships before just to get rejected or discover that the people I was befriending didn’t mesh well with my personality. Luckily, it’s not that hard to ease out of an internet friendship like it is with real life friendships, which is good if you’re the one drifting away, but not so much when you’re on the other end.
“I’ve tried to rush internet relationships before just to get rejected or discover that the people I was befriending didn’t mesh well with my personality.”
Overall, internet friendships can be way cooler than “real life” friendships. Through the internet, we get to choose the people we become friends with, which is not always the case in real life. We can’t just completely stop interacting with the people we work with or live with or go to school with. But we can choose who we interact with online. It’s inconvenient to maintain internet friendships, but we choose to accept the inconvenient time zone differences, inconsistent schedules, and long distances because we enjoy the relationships with our internet friends.
“Through the internet, we get to choose the people we become friends with.”
As you may have noticed, I’ve been putting quotes around “real life” throughout this post. I’ve done this because I don’t really see the difference between my “real life” friends and a lot of my internet friends. They are all just friends to me. Somewhere along the weird drawn out progression of internet friendships you start to feel just as comfortable with your internet friends as you would with any of your other friends. The only difference is these friends totally get all of your dumb references to memes.
Let me know if you have a completely different progression with your internet friends or if you just totally disagree with me. I would love to hear from you!