indieweb carnival

  • the evolution of online BFFs.

    Decided to join this month’s Indieweb Carnival and talk about Digital Relationships. Thanks to Manu for hosting!

    I can’t tell you how many people I have met that have turned up their noses at digital relationships, saying they aren’t nearly as connected or deep as in-person relationships.

    To that, I call bullshit.

    Almost all of the people I know and call close friends in my life I have met online, or I have developed a deeper connection because of being online. I would have never considered how much the internet and using it for connection would have affected my life the first time I sat in front of a computer.

    I grew up in the 1980s. The first computer I ever got on was an Apple IIe back in my Gifted classes in like 4th-5th grade, I think? But the first time I really connected with a person at the other end of the keyboard was when I was in college (well, the first go-round anyway) back in like 1994 or so. In my first Journalism class at SLU, the professor insisted that we use the school’s Journalism Usenet newsgroup to pull up his weekly quizzes, and we would have to copy the questions from there, post them into an email, and send him the answers.

    Well, what started as me getting on Usenet for class turned into me joining a few other newsgroups, namely the one. Through that group I met a few people online and started emailing them. One guy, Pierre, was in school in Toronto, Canada, and we hit it off. We even wrote each other handwritten letters when I was on summer break and couldn’t get to a computer. Of course, once I left college, I left the newsgroup, and never heard from him again. I often wonder what happened to him. I’ve tried doing a little Google search now and again, but I don’t want to risk contacting the wrong person. “Hey, by any chance, were you into Tori Amos back in like 1994-1996 or so?” Yeahhhhhhh no.

    After that, there were so many connections. Chat rooms, ICQ, AIM, forums, LiveJournal, my old personal blogs, comments, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr…

    Some of my most memorable connections were with people in the assorted things I’m into.

    My husband – who I did meet in person first – we became good friends through AIM chats and forum posts in our old Vampire LARP forum. A few months later, we started dating. We still message each other on Discord daily.

    On Facebook, I connected with a group of awesome people through an old group devoted to the vintage-inspired brand Trashy Diva. One of them is my best friend now, and we see each other at least once a week (we got together for dinner last Saturday). Others that live all over the country, I’ve gone to visit. From DC to Seattle…Dress Cult is Best Cult. Now we may not all be as utterly devoted to TD as we used to be, but we still stay in touch, and in fact, one of them is coming to visit me in March and we’re gonna spend the week hanging out, getting fancy every so often, and even getting tattoos together.

    The Loki fandom on Tumblr landed me two good friends that I still talk to 10 years later. I lost touch with them for a bit, but we always reconnect in little ways.

    Most recently, I’ve been connecting with people over Discord, mostly in the K-Pop fandom, and I’ve gotten really close with a few of them. I’ve visited a few, met up with some of them during concert trips, and even had one come stay with me in October when I ran my ATEEZ cupsleeve. I got to show her around New Orleans and get her some good food, which is always fun.

    Some of my good friends I still haven’t met! We only communicate online in assorted ways. We text, we send each other memes and voice messages and emails. I count them as some of my very best friends and they have been there for me in some of my darkest moments.

    I see these relationships, these friendships, no less than any other in-person friendship I’ve ever had. I even commented to my hairstylist last week that it is an utter pain in the ASS to make friends as you get older. It’s harder to find someone that you have a connection with randomly, in real life. Online, you can discover people that are in the same circles as you, and you already HAVE that thing in common, making striking up a conversation much easier and smoother. I’m too much of an extrovert to totally write off meeting people in person, but I have to admit that making those initial connections digitally is much easier.

    Don’t write off digital relationships. They’re just as critical for connection and meaningful friendships as an in-person relationship.