When I think back to my middle school and early high school days, most of my time was spent in front of a screen. Whether I was talking on Skype or playing "Call of Duty" over Xbox Live, all of my free time not at school or playing soccer was on the Internet. Some of this is still true. I still spend quite a lot of my time playing video games, but more so by myself or with people that I know in real life.
"Real life." These words have a certain connotation. For a friendship to be real, you have to know them in 'real life," right? But why does never interacting with someone physically make someone less real? When I was younger, many of the people that I spent my time talking to were people that I had never met and still have never met. Whether it was because they lived far away or that we never felt the need to, we never met up face-to-face. There were people that lived right down the street from me that I hung out with every day online but only interacted with in-person a handful of times.
Maybe my friends and I were massive anomalies when compared to the rest of the world, but most of our friends were online friends and whenever I would tell my "real life" friends and family about something funny that we talked about or something that we did, it just was not taken seriously. "What you guys have is not real, how could it be? You don't even know each other."
I would like to challenge those people with this: If you spend six hours a day every day talking to someone, do you think that might count as knowing someone? If you talk to them about the same things that you do your real-life best friends, just over a video game instead of a slice of pizza, does that make it any less meaningful to you?
If anything, I shared things with my online friends I would not dare share with most people I knew in real life. Why, you may ask? Because I could tell them things that I am afraid of being judged for in real life. I could walk away from the Xbox and go to school and not have the entire school know my big secret if they decided they wanted to sabotage me. This made talking to my online friends feel safer. And through this safety, I confided more of my self in these online friends and as a result, we became closer.
These friends made up a big part of my middle school life, and even today I will be having discussions with my friends and they say they just do not get it. And I just have to remind them that physicality is not what makes a friendship; it's the trust and laughter we share together that defines true friendship.