Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My Online Friends ARE Just As Important As Your Real Life Friends

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Have you ever had people in your life tell you that your "online friends" are not really friends? Or that the Internet and Social Media has ruined the meaning of relationships? Perhaps they recommend you get out more and try meeting real people so you can build real relationships because, to them, those are the only kind that "count".

Yes, the Internet has changed the way people interact...sometimes for the worse. But what if, what if that one person you seem to connect with through blogging or email or even Instagram really gets you...and there seems to be so many parallels in your lives that you feel like you could have been the same person.

As some of you may know, my husband and I are traveling around the country in our RV (see our adventure blog here). We've been on the road now almost 11 months and have just crossed our 21st state line. And this past weekend our travels brought us to South Bend, Indiana (well, I'm the navigator so I kinda made sure our paths would cross eventually) home of my all-time favorite blogger, Ellen.

Getting closer!!
I 'met' Ellen through her blog Fat Girl Wearing Thin which I came across on another bloggers "Blogs Worth Reading List". It's true that what keeps people reading your blog is great writing...which Ellen does...but I also noticed that, aside from being the same age, we had so much in common. I left comments here and there on her blog and noticed she had actually started to read mine as well. We began emailing each other because, frankly, I didn't want to sound like a lunatic by sharing some of my personal thoughts directly on her blog (even though I was still afraid of rejection and was sure she would be far too busy to email back I hit that send button anyway...and then second guessed myself and paced the floors). Not only did she email me back but we became instant online friends.

You see, I am a huge introvert and I have a hard time making friends. Don't get me wrong...I am as loyal as the day is long. And I think I'm pretty nice. But I either become a wallflower when it comes to meeting new people or, if I manage to open my mouth, I ramble...and get goofy. Most of the time new people think I am stuck up, but really I am painfully shy. So making a connection, albeit online, is a big deal. And meeting in person...well, that's a sweat inducing, stomach turning, try to find a way to back out it proposition.

But it was different with Ellen.

Other than being worried about utterly ridiculous things...like I should have been working out while on the road, she's going to think I look fat, what if I start to sweat profusely and do I have a booger hanging...it feels like I have a booger hanging...I had no where near the amount of anxiety I normally get in these types of situations. And let me tell you, the moment I saw her I thought I would burst into tears. It honestly felt like I was falling into the arms of one of my closest and dearest friend. I felt this way having never even spoken with her on the phone!

Ellen and I in front of The Mutiny.
We ended up spending the entire weekend together and even allowed our husbands to tag along. Thankfully they got along as well, even if they kept teasing us about how similar Ellen and I are (especially our little 'quirks' which face it, makes us even cuter). We spent hours chatting, enjoyed a few cocktails and I even got to see Ellen's studio and all of her amazing art work. She met my cats Avi and Miso and the devil dog, Cleo and I got to meet the super lovable Emmie and Brulee...oh, and her cool Angel Fish. And there was never a moment of awkwardness. 

The most friendly, interactive fish I've ever met.
Enjoying dinner out with the husbands.
So, I guess what I want to say to the nay-sayers is that it is possible to make a real and true connection with people online. As a matter of fact, we can quite possibly find deeper and more meaningful friendships when we remove the boundaries of distance. If we keep ourselves confined to forming relationships based on how many miles separate us then we might miss out on finding that special someone who shares the same 'quirks', someone who knows how we feel without even uttering a word.

My weekend with Ellen was extraordinary. I am so very fortunate to have a life that has allowed me to meet her in person. Although we already had a great connection, being able to sit and talk has certainly deepened our relationship, especially since both of us are introverts. Honestly, I just can't get over how easily things clicked...obviously our online communication laid down a pretty good foundation.

Being on the road (and an introvert to boot) makes it extremely difficult to make friends. Sure I talk to people occasionally but there is never really enough time to form any kind of bond. And of the few I have exchanged email addresses or friended on Facebook I find myself holding back, afraid to come across 'too aggressive' or needy if I bombard them with messages. Perhaps this experience with Ellen will enable me to take that leap and attempt to form a few more online friendships. 

But what I do know...again, after 11 months on the road...is that if a friendship starts out online there seems to be a better likelihood that we will remain in constant contact than the friendships formed in real life. Maybe it's because emailing, texting and interacting online is what we know, whereas IRL friends are used to just coming over and hanging out. It seems much harder for a real life friendship to make the transition to online friend than for an online friend to become a real life friend. I'm sure I am just as guilty at failing to make that transition but it makes me sad nonetheless.

Friends are important no matter how the relationship is born. So take a moment and hug your friends if you can...and if not send them a virtual hug and let them know how important they are in your life.

6 comments:

  1. You make so many good points about online friends making a better transition to IRL friends. I believe that is so true. I miss you. Sending hugs across the miles, always.

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  2. You may hear this quite a bit over the next few days, but I came to your blog via Ellen's. She said two of my favorite words, blog friends and travel (guess that's technically THREE words) and I knew I'd want to check you out. Can't wait to get better acquainted through BOTH of your blogs.

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  3. Hugs to you...looking forward to our next encounter!

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  4. Thank you so much for stopping by to read! I hope we can get to know each other as well. And Ellen is amazing...so any blog friend of Ellen's is a friend of mine.

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  5. I have to agree with everything you said. I feel the same with my online friends! I love the comfort my online friends give me everytime I post something that's making me feel down. Blogging community is an awesome place to be! :)

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  6. Exactly! There is a lot of support to be had with like minded people. No matter what time of day or night there is almost always someone there to lend an ear. I really think that the Internet and Social Media have helped connect people who maybe thought they were alone with their 'issues' or complexities. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

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