Meeting while miles apart

Exploring the world of online friendships

Mikaylah Du, Staff Writer

It all started with a message. 

When junior Dina Choi first saw Instagram user @ssesaw’s feed a year ago, she immediately took a liking to it. She decided to reach out to her and the two began chatting, and one conversation eventually led to Choi meeting an entire friend group a week later that she says she now confides in more than with her school friends.

“[With] the friends that I have at school, sometimes [I] feel like I can’t tell them my business because they go to school with me and I’m scared of their perception of me,” Choi said. “So sometimes I’ll talk about my problems to my internet friends, and they would just tell me their point of view on my rant.” 

Biology teacher Kyle Jones also thinks that online communication can be more comfortable for people, allowing them to make friends more easily. For example, he says the lack of eye contact can make talking to others less awkward and let them speak their thoughts more freely.

Jones considers himself to be relatively introverted and was especially shy when he was younger, often struggling to communicate with larger groups of people. However, when he talked to people online, the shyness was less overwhelming, allowing him to be more open. However, Jones points out that the anonymity aspect of online communication can also make it more dangerous. 

“The ability for deception and being dishonest … could be a little higher because the people that are engaging that online relationship can sort of hide behind the screen,” Jones said. “In real life, a person can deceive you — but you at least know that that person exists.”

Jones notices that another downside of online friendships is that people seem less concerned about maintaining in-person relationships. Since there are many people to talk to, he believes that online friendships tend to be more superficial. 

“[People] know that they can just find another [friend], because there’s access to multiple people, whereas in real life, you’re restricted to the people in your location,” Jones said. “You kind of have to hold on to those relationships a little more because it’s like, ‘OK, if I lose this, what else do I have?’” 

However, having multiple people to talk to can also be valuable, according to sophomore Miransh Das. He believes one of the biggest advantages of online friends is having the opportunity to talk to people all over the world. 

“California kind of is an echo chamber, not only in terms of politics but also in terms of views,” Das said. “But when you meet friends online, they’re from all over the world. They have much different experiences, they have different opinions — you can just meet a bunch of different people from a bunch of different backgrounds that you originally couldn’t, if you only have [in-person] friends.”

Jones believes another benefit of connecting with people all around the world makes meeting people with common interests easier. 

Das recognizes that communicating online is different from what many people are used to, and can be tricky at first. However, with some practice, online friendships can create a universe of readily available, deep and long lasting connections.

“If you are adept [at] communicating online, then there’s really no limitations of how far you can go with an online friend,” Das said. “Hanging out [in person] doesn’t have to be a main part of the friendship – you can play games with them, you can confide in them. All of the same stuff as real life friends.”

Choi believes there is no difference in the depth of connections she has created between friends made in-person and ones made online.

“I don’t prefer a friend over another friend,” Choi said. “It feels weird because I wouldn’t consider them my ‘internet friend,’ because we’re just so close it just doesn’t feel [like] that. They’re just a friend that [I met] over the internet.”