If you were born within roughly the last 25 years or so, I’m willing to bet you are familiar with the phrase “never talk to strangers online.” Maybe you have been told this by your teachers, parents, or other family members. While we shouldn’t let kids and teens be unsafe on the internet, we should also not be scaring them away from making new connections. Internet friendships are the modern day equivalent of penpals, and we should be encouraging people to engage in online friendships just like we encouraged people to have penpals. What many adults fail to realize is that while there are minor threats of predators online, there are many more benefits to creating friendships through social media.
Anyone who knows me knows that I always have something that I’m a passionate fan of. When I first created a fan account on Twitter, I was 13. I had originally dedicated this account to One Direction, after a friend from dance convinced me to make it. She was also a fan of One Direction, and had made many internet friends on Twitter and wanted to share the experience with me. She showed me the ropes of navigating online friendships and connecting with people from all over the world.
One of the best things about internet friends is that they come from so many different places throughout the world. When you are making friends in school, people that you interact with most of the time are from the same country as you. This is not always true, as there are always some foreign students, but not nearly as many as local students. On internet platforms, it is much easier to meet people from across the world. This is a major benefit of internet friends, because you are able to learn about different cultures. This is something that has always been very interesting to me–seeing how different parts of the world experience life in different ways, yet still come together over small things like fandoms.
I have met people from all over the world, within a multitude of fandoms. To be completely honest, one of my biggest achievements is the fact that I have made friends with people from every continent, except of course Antarctica. When I was in the One Direction fandom, I met people from the U.S., Ireland, Togo, Singapore, and Canada. When I transitioned to the Marvel fandom, I made friends with people from places like Columbia, Australia, Poland, Spain, Japan, the Philippines, and so many other places. It has made me so happy to meet people from so many places. We may all come from different places, but we all connected over a similar interest and that is so cool to me.
Another benefit of internet friends is that they can introduce you to new things. Many of my internet friends are in multiple fandoms. When I first started my account for One Direction, the people I met introduced me to another band, 5 Seconds of Summer, because people posted about both and seeing this other band on my timeline brought me to become interested in them. The same happened when I turned my account to Panic! At The Disco. The people that I met through this fandom then introduced me to other music, like the band Twenty One Pilots. I had not heard of them before I saw my friends posting about them online, and I started listening to them because of it. Eventually, I transitioned from bands to actors, tv, and movies. Since I joined the Marvel fandom, I have been exposed to lots of other movies and shows that I have since fallen in love with. After falling in love with these new things, I have the opportunity to search out other people who also enjoy them, and make even more friends. It is an endless circle of connections, and I think it is a beautiful thing.
Internet friends also are great for people who have trouble making connections with people in real life. For example, it can be easier for someone with social anxiety to make friends online because there is a slight sense of security in the fact that they are not right there in front of you. Everybody deserves to have friends, and internet friends may be the only option for some people. These connections are just as real as in-person connections, despite what some people say.
I am incredibly grateful for all of the friends I have made on Twitter over the past 6 years. Making these connections opened me up as a person, and expanded my interests. My internet friends have seen me grow, just like my real life friends. I would not trade any of my friendships for the world, and I hope to keep making more friends online for the rest of my life. Shoutout to all of my internet friends, I love you all dearly and for those I have not yet met in person, I truly hope that one day we can make that happen!