In our world currently, you can do so many things without leaving the comfort of your own home. You can shop, you can rent movies, you can work, you can do mostly anything. Growing up, we probably all heard the same things from our parents, our teachers, our School Resource Officers and many other adults - "Don't talk to people online." While the point is valid, and I understand the risks of making online friendships with people you don't know, why did adults fill absolute fear into the minds of children?
I am well aware that having friendships online can be incredibly risky. But, have you ever though about the benefits of them? I'd like to take you on a journey of exploring both the benefits and the risks of a online relationships and friendships.
Benefit #1: Support
The first benefit of having relationships, either platonic or romantic, online is that online friends can sometimes support you better than a regular in-person relationship. Sometimes, when you're going through a situation and your real life friends just don't get it, your internet friends do.
Risk #1: Catfishing
If you own a television and have ever tuned into MTV, you know what this is. Catfishing, by definition, is to pretend to be someone you're not online by posting false information. Thanks to the popular TV show, Catfish, starring Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, we have all been exposed to the harsh world of catfishing. Having online friends, it is not uncommon to come across a Catfish. I, myself, have encountered one. I had a group of online friends on Twitter and at one point, one of the friends randomly died. This person just "died" completely out of nowhere. They had no warnings, no goodbyes, nothing. Of course, we were all confused and smelled something a bit fishy. After some research, we found out that this girl was completely catfishing us and her "death" was just to cut ties with us before we figured out she wasn't who she was pretending to be. Catfish are awful, they're unfortunately common and they can be heartbreaking when you fall in love with the like people on the TV show. If you, yourself, reading this are catfishing someone get some sense and come clean, they'll always somehow find out in the end who you really are.
Benefit #2: Great Secret Keepers
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Sometimes, you have just things going on in real life you don't feel comfortable talking to your friends about. For example, I had two online friends that were thinking of dating and one of my friends didn't feel comfortable telling her real life friends how she felt about having a crush with a boy over the internet. She didn't think her friends would understand and that they would make fun of her for having and online relationship. Sometimes, only your online friends understand things and that's okay.
Risk #2: Scammers
This risk kind of goes along with catfishing, but it takes catfishing to a whole new level. Instead of just pretending to be someone hotter than you because you feel self-conscious putting yourself on the internet, this is someone pretending to be someone else with the intent of stealing from you. This is like the cases you hear on Dr. Phil with the sweet, old ladies who are dating who they think are sweet, old men who really turn out to be twenty-one year old men in some far away country. But, these meant are our for a relationship - they're out for cash. They make things up like needing money for surgery, needing money to get a plane ticket to the US, needing money for God knows what. These people only want one thing from you, money. If anyone ever asks for your money on the internet, never give it to them. If they really needed your money assistance, make sure you know and know exactly where your money is going.
Benefit #3: Life Saving
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For people who have social anxiety or just feel awkward meeting people in person, having the chance to make strong bonds and relationships online is life saving. They can grow their bond online and it will help build their confidence and create a lifelong friendship. Online friends don't always have to remain online friends; later on when they feel comfortable, they can meet in person and create an even stronger bond from there.
Risk #3: Cyberbullying
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We all know what this is. It can happen with both online friends and real life friends. Cyberbullying is when someone goes online and begins to make fun of you; they can do this either anonymously or not... it still hurts. It is easier for your online "friends" to do this than your real life ones. They do not know you in person, they can immediately delete you and block you afterwards. They'll never know what their hurtful words did to you after they've completely blocked you on everything. They can say anything they want about you on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Kik, ect. and never face the consequences of their words that are as sharp as knives. That's crazy.
Online friends are both a blessing and a curse. It sucks having online friends that you appreciate and can't go on random ice cream runs with. These people will be the first to back you up. Whenever you post a status claiming you're upset or mad, they'll be the first to comment claiming how they have their plane ticket in hand and they're on the way to kick whoever hurt you's butt. Appreciate an online friend, you don't have to fear them.