Forming Friendships Through a Screen
Friends are an essential to life. Genuine friends support one another through the roughest of times, motivate each other to achieve goals, and most importantly, have each other’s back despite arguments. Most friendships form at school, clubs, social events, work, and through mutual friends. However, the growth of online bonds is occurring due to the high use of the internet.
Ever since online messaging has existed, there have been people from all over connecting with someone an ocean away from them. The efficiency and quality of messaging have improved over the years. During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, AOL (America Online) users chatted with other users via AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) chat rooms, which was a huge sensation. It was popular to create an eccentric username to remain more anonymous. Today, people are more open about themselves and use social media platforms, usually Instagram and Twitter, to connect with people with mutual obsessions.
Many non-internet users question whether or not the friend identifies with their profile picture since it is easy to use a profile of someone else. Although catfishers, people who distinguish him or herself as another person through social media, exist, there are genuine internet friends as well.
Internet friendships are typically born due to common interests. Many preteens and young teens create fan pages on social media to express their interest in a band, celebrity, or a specific television series. They find other fan page owners with the same appeal, get to know them, and eventually befriend them.
Once the friends have gained each other’s trust, they exchange phone numbers, video chat, and may even schedule a date when they can meet up in real life.Teens usually use Facetime or Skype video chat with their friend. Unfortunately, most online friends live long distances from each other, which results in time zone issues. It is difficult to find a time when both friends are available to video chat because of the time difference.
Instagram pages, @webfriendfinder and @internet.friend.finderr has posts about teenagers who are interested in making friends through social media. Both accounts have over 10k followers and more than 1,000 posts. Boys and girls from ages 13-18 DM (Direct Message) the account about their desire for making new friends, hoping for the owner to post. The message gives a brief description of the user (their age, a vague statement of where they live, their likes/dislikes, and a selfie). Most teens are looking for one friend, some are seeking multiple people to form a group chat. The posts get comments asking the future friend to DM them, sometimes leading to a lasting friendship.
There are also sites and pages that celebrate online friendships and face to face meetings. Once online friends meet face to face, they want to remember their special moment forever. The friends have a parent record a video of the two running up to each other and giving the biggest hug. Some friends even send a short clip to Instagram accounts @webfriendsmeet and @_internetfriendgoals_ for the account owner to post. The page has a large amount of followers and thousands of videos of friends breaking the distance with cute background songs. Many of the clips start off in black & white, then appear colorized once they hug, representing a break in distance.
For juniors Amber Tarantino and Michaela Loura, their dream became a reality when the two met their internet friends.
Tarantino met her friend about four years ago through Twitter. The girls connected because of artists, such as Shawn Mendes, that they both liked and planned on seeing in the future. About a month into their friendship, they exchanged numbers, which made it easier to communicate. Tarantino had mentioned her friend to her mother multiple times throughout the first year of their friendship, and her mother was supportive of the amity. Although her friend lives in Ohio and it is difficult to plan a day to meet, after a year and a half of bonding, Tarantino met her online friend during Pressplay, a social influencer tour, convention in Boston. When her mother met her internet friend, she realized how special the bond is between the two girls. Although they have a heavy school load and other responsibilities, they message each other on a daily basis.
For Loura, she met her first online friend on Instagram, but she usually befriends people via Twitter. The friend found out Loura was attending the same show in Boston, Miranda Sings Summer Camp. She and her friend share common interests in singer Selena Gomez, and YouTubers Colleen Ballinger/Miranda Sings (PsychoSoprano), and Joshua Evans (JoshuaDTV). The friends rave about their idols, laugh over their inside jokes, talk about future plans, and send each other ‘ugly selfies’ through Snapchat. Since she was Loura’s first internet friend, they did not swap numbers until months later. Before, they messaged through Kik and video chatted through ooVoo. Loura introduced her friend to her parents through ooVoo, and they were supportive of their friendship. After their friendship anniversary, the two girls hung out for the first time at a mall about halfway between their homes. She and her friend live about 3.5 hours away from each other, so they get to spend time quite often. To this day, the friends text each other every day, from little greets to long rants.
For all internet friends, meeting their other half is an unforgettable moment for them. The majority of friends live thousands of miles away from one another, making it difficult to visit often. For Tarantino and Loura, their friends live nearby to an extent, so both girls have been fortunate enough to spend time with their friend a few times. Introducing themselves their internet friend was their best decision and their memories with their internet friend will always be cherished in their hearts.