Throwback Friday: Online Friends

Instead of "throwback Thursday", I'm going to have a "throwback Friday"! Woo! :) And today I'd like to talk about friends.

Online friends, that is.

I saw this advertisement for Skype yesterday, and I thought about all of my online friends and the trials and tribulations we have been through together. It seems crazy to me that I have known a good many of them for 10 years or more.

Online friends are one of the many things that differentiate my generation and all that have come after me from that of my parents and grandparents. I had access to a computer and the internet at a very young age. (Given my actual age, that is a bit surprising.) Through the use of a computer, I was able to learn spelling and math as well as gaining typing and communication skills; the computer and internet opened up possibilities that were never available before for learning and communicating.

During high school my best friend, at the time, frequently experienced migraines leaving me at home with little to do. I remember tying up the phone line using dial up internet so frequently that my parents would get aggravated with me! They didn't know how to use a computer, so they didn't really understand the internet. In fact, I asked for the internet as a birthday gift one year. Can you even fathom the prospect of the internet being seen as an unnecessary expense? My! How times have changed!

Then, one day very early on in my high school career, I decided to go chat online in a chatroom. I was bored; it was something to do. Why not? I think my parents were both at work. I was probably responsible for watching my little brother, but I never did a great job at that anyway. (We didn't get along most of the time, and I had absolutely no interest in entertaining him.) I distinctly remember that particular day as a day that changed my life forever in a surprising and unexpected way.

Y'see as I was chatting in the chatroom, someone came online by the name of "German" (or something like that). It was a pretty generic username but it was one that intrigued me. I had just begun taking German classes at school, and so I thought I'd message this person. I mean why not? That's one of the great things about the internet – when talking with a stranger in the chatroom, you can chat for a bit, find you have nothing in common, and move on. You aren't obligated to continue talking, and you aren't being judged by the way you look, talk, dress, what you eat… It's simple. Faceless conversation in a presumably quiet room where you can actually hear yourself think. (Or maybe I just like it, because I'm shy?)

So I started talking to "German"… and we kept talking… and talking… and talking… and then it was 6PM and my parents were home and wanting to go out to eat. My friend "German" and I had been talking for 3… maybe 4 hours. When my parents came into my bedroom to get me, I was shocked to find that they were intrigued by the prospect of their daughter talking with someone in another country. It was as if I was doing the impossible, a magician of sorts. They found a spot to sit on my bed, amused and entertained as they patiently waited telling me to "take my time."

Since 6pm my time was (and forgive me if I get this wrong) approximately midnight his time, the conversation ended pretty quickly thereafter.  I believe we had exchanged e-mail addresses, but as with most internet communication, I'm not entirely sure I expected the friendship to continue much longer after that day. As such, I was a bit sad that the conversation had to end.

But, surprisingly enough, the friendship continued. E-mails were exchanged, and eventually he came to my wedding. Y'know… an online friend coming from a foreign country on a ten hour flight for your wedding. Not stressful at all! ;)

Back on topic…

I guess the reason that one moment changed my life forever is that from that point on, my parents finally understood what the internet was. This unfathomable experience of speaking to someone from a different country from within the confines of a small bedroom inside your own home may have been crazy, but it was finally sinking in: this was the future.

Furthermore, that one chat led to me meeting and making other online friends, continuing my studies in German even longer than I probably would have otherwise, and (as strange as it sounds) becoming comfortable with the prospect of sharing personal information (i.e. phone number, address) with someone online. Even at that time so long ago I knew it was a gamble. I was being asked to push the boundaries of what I was comfortable with; it gave me the chance/opportunity to trust someone that did not necessarily deserve my trust. (Trust fall, anyone?)

But this post isn't just about that one friend. Truly, all of my online friends, have been amazing (or at least those that have stuck around). They all have challenged me in different ways and helped shape me into the person I am now. I really cannot imagine my life without them, and I am grateful for their friendship every. single. day.

Do you have any online friends that you are grateful for? :) Give them a shout out and share a story! I'd love to hear how online friends have made a difference in your life!

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