An Ode to Online Friendships - And Why They’re Very Much Real

BY SABRINA FEARON-MELVILLE

The past year has been the era of online interactions. Perhaps like many, I have found a community on Twitter to fill the void of what I wasn’t receiving in real life. And over time, people who were initially strangers have become my friends. Friends I may have never met in real life, but whom I have formed a genuine bond with nonetheless, rooted in our mutual understanding of various topics from photography to films - and niche memes.

Twitter is home to many communities, but none are as prominent as the subcategory of what we call stan Twitter. Hundreds of fan accounts can be found for superstars such as Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Beyonce, and Selena Gomez, to name a few.

Whilst most people I know have fallen out of their stan days, I have one friend who continues to support and uplift those in the community she gets along with virtually. She’s a part of Selena Gomez stan Twitter and has found lifelong friends.

“All of my online friends made me feel seen in a space and world that not many people understand, and through our shared love of artists, we were able to build a friendship based on a deeper connection. They are super important to me.”

Some might argue that the people you meet online are not your ‘friends’ until you meet them in person, but I strongly refute that statement. My online friends have provided me joy that matches the comfort that my friends in real life were unable to provide me in person due to the pandemic.

In a strange way over the last year, all of my friends, both in real life and online, have become online friends due to the restrictions placed on us in a global pandemic. In the last year, I have spent more time with my friends virtually than I ever have, from watching Netflix films using Discord to planning virtual escape rooms, the digital space has allowed for more advances in technology to be social in a virtual setting.

In March 2021, one of my online friends whom I have never met in person, but love dearly, hosted a movie night via Netflix and Teleparty. Another friend I have yet to meet in person (but who I have had numerous voice note sessions and phone-calls with) was also in the Teleparty. We have made tentative plans to all meet for brunch once our schedules align, and we are allowed to do so under current Government guidelines. The bridge between online and real-life friends is something I am anxious to discover, as I feel like I owe lots of my lockdown joy to these new and tentative relationships.

Nothing feels better than having a notification from Twitter and it being an online friend who tagged you in a job opportunity. The sentiment behind it never goes unnoticed and more often than not the opportunity works out for the better. My online friends always uplift me and encourage me to apply for things I feel might be ambitious, but they feel are perfect for me. I recognise the easy nature of our relationships, which feel so much unlike real life friendships; there is a difference in expectation, in the way that it is minimal and can be extended over time to lapse into DMs and later perhaps the odd Facetime.

But online friendships are vital and just as important as real life ones, in an age where so many of us are working from home, and in some cases for ourselves. Cultivating like-minded friends in a virtual space helps encourage new connections which, with any luck, can transform into long-life friends in the physical space.