Developing online friendships: yay or nay?
From Snapchatting to checking our Insta feeds to sending emails, it seems like we are *always* on our phones. And while your parents' or grandparents' generations may disapprove of your smartphone "addiction", there are some positive upsides of using the internet. One of them is online friendships. With the prevalence of technology among teens, it’s understandable that more and more often people are connecting online. It’s easy to find girls (or guys) with similar interests as you when there are entire websites or blogs devoted to the things you love. Some people feel embarrassed to admit that they have very real online friendships—or that they feel closer to their friends online than their friends in real life. But it's not something to be ashamed of and a friendship should *not* be discounted because it was formed online.
The internet has changed so much just in the past few years and now, social media is absolutely everywhere. It is with us constantly—on our phones, laptops, tablets, even our watches. So it's silly to think that people will spend such a large period of time online without getting close to others online as well. When you find someone whose likes/dislikes are just like yours, it is natural to form a bond with that person.
When chatting face-to-face, you might be afraid of being judged by the other person. Interacting online can sometimes help take away that fear. For people with anxiety or who are very shy, this provides a safe outlet for them to have open discussions with others. If they don’t feel safe, or feel embarrassed, they can easily log off or block the person they were speaking with. Another great thing about online friendships is that it connects us with people and cultures that we may not have otherwise come in contact with. You can be sitting on your computer chair in Baltimore but the person you’re speaking to could be in London. That is seriously cool when you stop and think about it!
However, that isn’t to say there aren't dangers to online friendships. Internet safety is of the utmost importance. This is not something to take lightly because the fact is that there are bad people online (just as there are in real life), and if you’re old enough to be using the internet then you should be responsible enough to use it as well. You should *never* give out your full name or address to a person. And be aware—someone may come off as completely harmless, but if you have a weird feeling about it, trust your gut.
Most of all, you should never sneak off to meet a friend from the internet. If your parents are okay with such a meet up then they should be going with you. Do not ever meet someone from online alone. We can't say that enough times! There are countless heartbreaking stories to be told of people who have done this, and ended up hurt or even worse.
The internet is an amazing place, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to admit you’ve made friends because of it. As long as you’re practicing internet safety online and maintaining healthy relationships offline, of course.
Do you have any online friends? Let us know in the comments!