If you’re anything like me, then whatever you’re doing on your phone probably makes up a solid 50-60% of your life. Whether you’re scrolling through Instagram, checking out stories on Snapchat, or texting a good buddy about plans for the weekend, you’re using that little portable computer to communicate with people. Sometimes they’re people you’ve met through real-life interactions, and sometimes they’re people that you’ve never actually met in person. You came across each other online one way or another. You talk, you laugh, and you grow closer. It has the same feelings as any other friendship, it’s just a little different.
Of course, there are some of you out there who can’t relate to a single thing I’m saying.
For the benefit of those people, allow me to present my non-exhaustive list of the pros and cons that go with online friendships. People who already have an online friend should be able to relate.
PRO: It’s easy to find someone who likes the same thing as you.
There are thousands of internet communities dedicated to different interests and hobbies. If you know what it is, there’s probably a group of Tumblr blogs, a Subreddit, or an Amino for it. If not, then you can start your own and there’s a good chance it’ll attract people who think like you. Unlike in-person friendships, there are ways to guarantee that you and your online friends will have common interests that you can talk about.
CON: They could live in a different time zone.
The convenient thing about in-person friendships is that you’re usually all on the same sleep schedule. The same cannot always be said about online friends. You could have some friends who live in time zones three hours ahead of yours while others are two hours behind. It can make talking difficult when you’re trying to coordinate the times in your day when you’re both not busy. Sometimes there’s only a brief window where you can pop online to say "hi," before not talking to them again for days.
PRO: You can vent to them about things going on in your life.
One of the best parts of having an online friend is that they usually don’t know any of your other friends. Therefore, if you’re having a problem with someone or something in your daily life, your online friend is a good way to get all of your negative feelings out without it coming back to bite you. Just make sure you’re not constantly venting to your online friend because that can put a major strain on any relationship. If possible, make sure you ask them if it’s okay to vent first. Sometimes they’ve had a rough day, too!
CON: You’ll probably have a hard time understanding the stuff going on in each other’s lives.
The same thing that makes your friend a blessing could be a small curse in disguise. As nice as it is to have someone impartial to talk to, there’s a good chance that your friend won’t have any idea what you’re talking about! All the names you’re bringing up, all the places you reference, the activities you do, they won’t be as innately familiar with these things as you are. It usually takes a while to really catch on to the rhythm of both of your lives, if it ever happens.
PRO: You get to learn from them.
Your online friend is someone who’s had experiences that you haven’t had, sometimes in a place that you didn’t even know existed! They’re going to have a lot of stories about interesting things that you’ve never thought about. They’re going to have advice from a totally different perspective, and they’re going to have learned things from their environment that you’ve maybe never even encountered in yours. So aside from emotional support and laughs, you’ll probably also gain some knowledge and wisdom, too.
CON: They can’t always be there.
If you’re very close to your online friend, then there are probably going to be times when you want to talk to them or you want to see them but it’s impossible. Either they’re busy or you live too far away to visit and it stinks. There’s nothing worse than wanting someone there and not being able to have them there. There are going to be some battles that you’ll have to win on your own, or you’ll have to rely on the people you know in-person, which may not always be the best option.
But, most importantly…
PRO: You have a friend.
And despite all of the ups and downs that go along with it, isn’t friendship the most precious thing of all?