In a society that is obsessed with social media, many teens and young adults are turning to the internet to form bonds with like-minded individuals. With apps such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder we are constantly putting ourselves out there with the hopes of finding strangers that we can bond with, most times better than with the people we already know.
However, is it realistic to call strangers you meet on the internet your real friends? Should you be in a constant fear of being catfished? Can you rely on the profiles people set of themselves to be genuine?
Friends that you meet on the internet can be easier to relate to than some friends you have met in real life, which in my terms constitutes them as a true friend. While many individuals in our parents’ generation would be skeptical about meeting people online, there is a large community of people on the internet who are not intending to catfish. Adults in older generations may not understand this because of how quickly technology is evolving today. While the internet isn’t quite as dangerous as it used to be, it is still important to be careful when meeting people online. Internet friends are especially great when someone feels left out in the world. They can create a sense of belonging and make individuals feel as if they have a friend they can count on. While long-distance friendships can be difficult, there is nothing better than seeing their face on video chat every day and finally getting to meet them to give them the hug you have always dreamed of.
Talking to someone every day can create a constant flow of humor, love, and entertainment. I can say from personal experience that finding someone who has so many similar interests as you is one of the best feelings in the world.
When it comes to safety, here are some tips to help you figure out if the person you are talking to online is genuine.
1. Make sure their profiles match
Many times internet friends will follow each other on multiple social media sites. Make sure their Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook all line up with age and general location, as well as have the images of the same person.
2. FaceTime them
While FaceTiming someone for the first time may be nerve-wracking, it is a great way to ensure that you and your internet friend can get along with more than just texting. It is a much more personal way to contact someone. If they look different from their profile or speak in a way that makes you uncomfortable it is easy to quickly end the call and block them from future contact.
3. Make sure they aren’t trying to pry personal information out of you
If your internet friend is trying to find out your address after only talking for a short time, that is a red flag. Don’t give out any personal information until you are more than comfortable with this person, and if they are asking too often it may be time to back away.
4. If you feel threatened in any way STOP TALKING TO THEM
Talking to your internet friends should be fun, not scary. If any part of it feels uncomfortable get out of the friendship as fast as you can. It isn’t worth feeling uncomfortable by someone online and there is nothing worse than being afraid of someone that you aren’t sure you can trust. Focus on the fun!
Throughout my life, I would have been lost in some of my darkest times without the affection and attention from the friends I have met online. I have been lucky enough to meet two of my best friends through Instagram and Twitter, and would not trade them for the world.