Henry Ford once said “my best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”
This is exactly how it should be; someone who inspires you and makes you laugh, even when you want to cry. Someone who can tell in a word whether something is wrong and know what to say to cheer you up again.
Nowhere in this quote does it say you have to physically meet the person.
I am an introvert through and through. I struggle with new environments and am much comfier with a couple of people than I am in a big group. I don’t have loads of friends, but the ones I do, I treasure beyond anything. The majority of those who are closest to me, though, I have never met (or met a few times and that is it).
Online friends are a strange conundrum these days. People claim they are not real friends. My response? They know me better than anyone and they are always there when I need them. Is that not friendship?
Then there is the worry over safety. Most of these people I will never meet. They live the other side of the world to me. Should that mean I should not enjoy the companionship they offer? They have time for me even when our time zones are opposites, which is more than I can say some of my “real” friends.
Sometimes it is hard. I have no social life and emailing people in the evening does not give me that. Or there are times where the people you really want to talk to simply aren’t online and you’re stuck with nothing. But these are such minor issues when I think about the benefits I receive from interacting with these online friends. I’m not joking when I say some of these friends can tell by how I type something if something is wrong. They encourage me to open up and have been with me through the hardest times of my life and have never left me.
Typing, or writing, what is on my mind is often the only way I can communicate. It’s who I am, not anything against those surrounding me. Which is why my online friends are the ones who get my heart and soul every time there is a problem, and they have never turned away. I feel lucky beyond measure to have them.
It’s true, having some more “real life” friends would be nice. To be able to do things and engage with activities that I love with people whose company I enjoy. But if the choice was between real life where messages go unanswered, I put on a front and never enjoy myself or knowing these people have my back even if there is a physical distance between us, it’s no choice at all.
Safety should be considered and care taken. But if people are safe, happy and healthy, it should never be said that online friends are not real friends.