Don't Tell Me They're Not Real: Internet Friends Are Real Life Friends

BlogHer Original Post

Don't tell me they're not real.

I left a comment on the most random blog post I had ever come across in my many times clicking the "Random" button on LiveJournal. The blogger replied. I replied. Then the blogger's friend replied. I looked at his avatar, this friend of the original blogger, and my eyebrow raised a little bit. The back and forth conversation went on all evening, one comment after the other. Days later, AOL Instant Messenger names were exchanged.

Three years later, we stood in front of our friends and family and exchanged vows.

Don't Tell Me They're Not Real: Marrying the Internet Boy in 2004, and us today in 2014
Marrying the Internet Boy in 2004, and us today in 2014.

Don't tell me they're not real.

I tweeted about a local meteorologist, one with whom I used to work. I hashtagged it with something local. A woman replied with something snarky and fun, making me snort laugh at my computer. I followed her. We met for lunch a few months later. She watches my dog when we have a last minute issue. She brings me baskets of goodies to get through the worst of times. She looks for things I "need" when she travels yard sales.

She became my best friend. We wouldn't have otherwise met if it weren't for the Twitter machine.

Don't Tell Me They're Not Real: An adoptive mom and a birth mom at a birth mother's day ceremony in 2012
An adoptive mom and a birth mom at a birth mother's day ceremony in 2012.

Don't tell me they're not real.

I responded to her first post on BlogHer.com. Years later, as we worked together and met in person at BlogHer '10, we simply clicked. Now I spend all of my work day chatting with her. She visits me on my birthday. We send gifts back and forth across the international border. I tell her the big things in my life. She tells me hers.

Without her in my life, I'd be less of who I am today. Without the land of Internet, there's no way we would have met.

Don't Tell Me They're Not Real: Me and Karen at BlogHer '13
Me and Karen at BlogHer '13—Of note: Blogging conferences are a great way to meet your online friends. Are you registered for BlogHer '14 in San Jose?

Don't tell me they're not real.

Lost in the haze of new baby, a blogger I had only been following for a short amount of time sent me cookies. Apparently if you send me cookies, I will be loyal to you forever and ever. Amen. We've helped each other with blogging endeavors over the years, but we've also shared our lives, our families, our time.

Without her, my life would be less awesome. And my oldest son wouldn't have a crush on a little girl in Pittsburgh.

Don't Tell Me They're Not Real: Me, THE NEW BABY, BurghBaby, and Casey, who also falls into the Yes, They're Real category
Me, THE NEW BABY, BurghBaby, and Casey, who also falls into the Yes, They're Real category.

Don't tell me they're not real.

They text me to announce their big news before they share it with the greater social media presence. They show up at the funeral home, the hospital, the grieving places in between even though it's not close, it's not convenient. When they can't show up in those places, they send flowers. They send emails, text messages, snail mail letters, packages to me, to my children. They know that December 13th will always be the hardest day of my year and they reach out with love, with compassion, with empathy. They cheer me on every time I run a race or even just go out and run. They celebrate with me when I do something I've been wanting to do for so long. They cry with me when my heart is breaking. They cover my whole family in love as we prepare to say goodbye to my grandmother.

I'm not discounting the friends I've made in real life. They are equally special. They came to me in their own ways—high school, college, my lactation consultant, church, mothers' groups, the school system, friends of my husband, work. They also show up in the places that matter. They meet me for coffee once a week. They attend my kids' birthday parties. They rearrange schedules to meet me for dinner when I desperately need adult interaction.

But the people who live in my computer (and smartphone, for that matter) matter just as much. The connections, the care, the love? Those are all just as real. The stories we share with each other in our online spaces bring people into our lives. It's then up to us to do what we want, what we can do with those people.

When I asked about online friendships on Twitter, one line of thought I got was that they aren't as real if you haven't met in person. Denise Tanton, BlogHer.com's Community Manager, laughed at that one. "I owned you long before I met you," sharing an inside joke of our long-standing friendship. I agree, because I had that strong connection with my now husband long before I met him. I knew I was going to love the heck out of BurghBaby before I finally hugged her in person, though that may be because she sent me cookies. More over, those people that I have had that strong connection with in one way or another? I've worked out ways to meet them in person. People from different countries. People across this country. There are still those that I haven't met yet, and while I'm sad about a number of those amazing people, that doesn't make them any less real to me.

Enough of me gushing about my love for "Internet" friends, which I prefer to just call My Friends. I want to hear your stories. How did you meet your online friends? A forum, a blog, the Twitter? Do you consider them "real" or even best/closest? Was there a moment, like some of the ones I used above, when you realized that these "online" friends were more than just imaginary people inside your computer?

Leave a comment below or write your own post and leave it in the Linky. I'd love to read about those friends you love. Tell me you're "Don't tell me they're not real" moment.

 

BlogHer Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog.

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