Some people believe that in order to truly be friends with someone, you have to know them in real life. This couldn't be further from the truth! Some of my best friends are people I've found on social media.
Of course, as any overly-concerned parent or middle school teacher would tell you, you have to be careful. It is indeed much harder to trust people online, especially at first. If someone refuses to prove their identity to you, get out immediately! However, if someone does prove themselves, and you two become close and talk regularly, who's to say you're not friends?
Sometimes, it's even easier to seek out friendships online. For example, someone with anxiety in real-life scenarios may prefer to seek out companions on Twitter. Or, someone may want to befriend that fan page of their favorite band, so they have someone to talk to about an interest.
When I was a shy and lonely 13-year-old, my absolute best friends were some fellow preteen "Hunger Games" fans on Instagram, some of which I still remain close to today. I've also never met anyone in real life who has the same passion for the video game "Harvest Moon" as I do, but thanks to Twitter and Discord, I've found some great friends online.
I've recently been able to meet some of my internet friends, such as the one pictured in this article, and I have plans to meet others. Some of them I may not be able to meet soon, especially those that live in other countries, but that doesn't make them any less of a friend.
Rather than focusing on the dangers of the internet, we should focus on the wonders of it, too. We should encourage people to be careful, rather than encouraging people to avoid internet relationships entirely. Obviously, social media and internet-based friendships are not for everyone, but a lot of us do enjoy having them, and there is no shame in that.