In the past it has been common for people to see making friends online as taboo. You know, “stranger danger” and all of that. The same argument is used over and over again, “Who do you know who you’re talking to? It could be a 50 year-old man. It’s weird.” However, as social media continues to grow as a major part of our lives, we’re beginning to see that we know exactly who we’re talking to. And if we don’t, we don’t start conversations in the first place. Though we must keep in mind that the basis for this is being old enough, and responsible enough, to make smart decisions about who we interact with people on the internet. And, in this day and age, we have become pretty good at digging through people’s social media to make sure that the people we’re talking to are legit. Another factor to be aware of is the apps on which we make friends. Pictures are easy to hide behind, but videos are not. So, meeting people on, say, Instagram, can be very different from meeting people on TikTok. It can all depend on the content that’s being posted; you just have to be smart about it.
TikTok has become a place where people have found ways to become connected to new people, and we really do see it happening all of the time. We’ve seen popular TikTokers come together and make videos with each other and become friends, and it happens within all niches of TikTok. This means, from “Hype House” TikTokers and musicians, to influencers and Kpop stans, we can see people making friends from all over the world. During these times where we can’t go out into the world and make friends as easily, finding people online to befriend has been a way for people to stay connected with other humans. Not only that, but it has been a way for people to find others that share the same interests, something they may not be able to do as easily in-person.
That brings me to my own experience of making some of my closest friends online. Over the summer, I somehow found a TikTok that led me down a rabbit hole, a Kpop rabbit hole. Something I struggled with was not having anyone to talk to about it with or share my interest with. None of my real-life friends listened to Kpop or had any interest in it, so my new interest became a bit lonely. Until I found myself very much on the Kpop side of TikTok, where I began to find people who liked Kpop just as much as me. The people I have met went from mutuals on TikTok, to instagram followers, to people I texted with, and now to friends I regularly Facetime with. Never once did I have to worry that these people I was befriending were not who they said they were. My only problem now is figuring out whether they’re awake or not when I want to talk to them since I, of course, befriended people from many different time zones. From Arizona and Florida, and all the way across the pond to England (her sleeping habits are pretty bad so she usually ends up being awake when I need her).
In the end, making friends with someone online is not much different from making friends in-person. Whether the people you meet are from the internet, or they’re someone you meet in real life, they could always be hiding parts of who they are. You always have to use good judgement and be smart when you’re meeting people for the first time. How is it any different to make these smart judgments about people online versus people in-person that you meet at parties, or at the park, etc. So my advice is, stop making people feel bad for making friends online! This is something I see happen far too often. Yes, I made a friend online. And no, they’re not just some random dude in his parent’s basement. It’s important to also remember that some people deal with things like social anxiety. Meeting people online, in a space they feel comfortable in may be preferable to going out and meeting strangers in-person. So the next time you want to make a joke to someone you know for making friends online, just remember that they’re making genuine relationships. And I promise you, if they don’t ask for your opinion, they don’t want it.