In Real Life

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I like meeting people from online.

There is so much to be said about online communication. I’ve been using the internet since I was about 10; my very first experience chatting to people I didn’t know was in a chat room for some Christian singer named Rebecca St. James. I thought it was the coolest thing ever to be able to talk to people from all over the world and to make new friends I would probably never meet. This sounds really scary now actually, knowing that someone so young had access to the internet and all the ‘strangers’ who accompanied it. I never gave out personal information though – I knew better than that – so nothing terrible ever happened thankfully.

After that chat room came AIM messenger and all it’s drama, as well as its random chat rooms. Mainly, it was used to talk to people I went to school with. It’s silly away messages and things caused it to last through most of junior high. However, I started talking to a girl from West Virginia and we would banter back and forth about nothing in particular, but she challenged me intellectually and I felt like I needed to prove how smart I was – being 11 and all. She was probably my first online friend and I’m still in touch with her now actually, 13 years later, but we still haven’t met.

Then came my introduction to Yahoo! messenger when I was 13. For some reason, I thought it was a good idea to go into a Lord of the Rings chat room one day and let me tell you, it has changed my life. It was there that I met people who I would keep lasting friendships with – longer than even most of the people I would meet ‘in real life’. I started talking to a set of people who taught me so many things, being all older than me. They’ve seen me go through all kinds of phases. I even had my first relationship with someone I met on there who lived in Scotland.

I have met five people from around the world so far from LOTR, and I’ll be meeting another one next month, with hopefully more over the summer. The internet has allowed me connect with SO many incredible people, and I am so thankful for the things I have learned because of it. My positive experiences have far outweighed the negative.

I am often asked, “How do you know people are who they say they are?”. My response has always been, “well, because I’ve seen them”. This is true though – I’ve never attempted to meet anyone who I haven’t had lengthy video chats with. But now I know that it’s not just about physically seeing someone.

Online communication is great for people who like to hide. Not just physically, but mentally/psychologically as well. Unfortunately, it makes having character flaws or personality disorders easier to hide. While this is a positive for some, those of us who are real and straight forward – online or not – now have to second guess everything and try to interpret what’s real and what’s not. Having online friends gives you the ability to pick and choose the type of person you appear because no one gets to actually see how you react in real life situations.

People only see what you allow them to see.

This can be true of real life relationships as well, but it’s a little more difficult to hide. Having the ability to be so selective gives you a shield. You can decide how much you let people in. You’re given the illusion that no one can hurt you unless you let them – and that is true to an extent. The ability to hide behind a screen and log off or block people whenever you choose gives you a feeling of control; something you might not have elsewhere.

My social skills in person are decent, (don’t get me wrong, they could always use improving, like the fact that I suck at making eye contact throughout a conversation) – but I can function. I’m able to form relationships with people in person as easily as I can online. Especially recently. I’ve been told a lot this year that I am a very approachable, easy to talk to person.

I prefer talking to people online, because I feel that having that kind of space forces you to slow down and actually get to know people a little more thoroughly because the physical aspect of the relationship is removed. (Mostly when talking to the opposite sex, by the way.) There’s only so much you can do from far away. While some people chalk this up to a negative, I consider it a positive. I love long distant relationships and have always been a fan of them. You get the emotional support you need, but have the freedom to live your own life and when you DO spend time together, you appreciate every single moment together. You can’t take things for granted. That being said – I have still been lied to, and I will be the first to admit that I have lied before as well. You use what you have to your advantage. We all do it.

I also believe that this allows relationships/friendships to form on a much deeper level, at least in my case. It takes you down to the most basic interaction – forming a connection through conversation.