When I first moved to New York City I was four days out of college and I only had a handful of acquaintances.
I lived in a Brooklyn apartment with three strangers and two very loud cats and I was desperate for a social life beyond Netflix and sitting alone at the local coffee shop. Out of pure happenstance I was invited to a secret Facebook group for non-cismen in the city and slowly I was introduced to a social world unlike any I had experienced. I was handed the chance to meet some incredible humans online and eventually in real life. Some of these people are now my closest friends.
A few years ago, I would have scoffed at the idea of making friends on the Internet. I was under the impression that Internet friends were for antisocial people and serial killers. Now, I wholeheartedly admit that I was wrong. In fact, making friends on the Internet allows for a whole new kind of friendship. Now, we are able to learn about a person and truly get to know them before actually meeting. It gets rid of the awkward small talk and brings us closer to people we already have things in common with.
It is important to note that meeting people online does come with its risks, so here is a how-to guide to making good and safe friends via the Internet.
Look for groups based on location over interest.
This may seem counterintuitive. It makes sense to want to be in a queer group if you are queer or a bird-watching group if you enjoy bird-watching, but it is incredibly valuable to have friends that are close to you geographically. Plus, it can be really frustrating if all of your friends are far away. So look for groups that are based in your area so you can actually attend events. If you live in a bigger city many of these geographically convenient groups will also have people who enjoy what you enjoy.
Always bring a friend to events.
Alright, I have to be a mom for a moment. People aren’t always what they seem on the Internet. So once you find a group and are ready to meet people IRL, bring along somebody you already know. And make sure to meet in public, not in somebody’s basement. Plus, it can be way less intimidating to go to an Internet meet up if you already have a friend.
Be yourself, online and in person.
It may seem fun to create a persona for the Internet, but if you want to make actual friends, telling people that you have hot pink hair and are in a rock band when in actuality you’re a junior in high school with an extensive shoelace collection, is misleading. And it won’t help you make friends; it’ll just make you a liar. Anyways, a shoelace collection is way cooler than being a fake rock star.
Finally, don’t feed into the stigma.
If you think online friendship feels dangerous or dorky, I respond with: don’t knock it until you try it. We live in the technology age and it’s time that we stop judging people for finding real connection via the Internet and start engaging this beautiful mode of communication that we now have. Be safe, be smart, have fun.