Have You Made Friends Online?

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Connecting on the internet. Not quite a science, not quite an art. The act and application of ‘reaching out’ can be fraught, but also incredibly liberating. What if you could talk to anyone you wanted? The crazy thing is, you can. You can tweet at DiCaprio. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe he just doesn’t write back. Well, he’s certainly not going to write if you don’t tweet. That’s the only thing you can know for sure.

I’m hesitant to bring biography into it. It’s possible you’ve noticed, likely that you haven’t—I sort of got a job off the internet, and not through Craigslist either (thanks, though, to all the job creators out there posting “Seeking Sexy College Girl For Light Featherdusting This Afternoon”). In a way, I still don’t know how it happened. I just know that I tagged a picture, sent a message, wrote an email, and everything that came after hazes into the weird inevitability of life happening in real time. In a way, it all feels normal, because it’s happening. In another way, it all feels surreal, impossible, and that I’ve leapt into a parallel universe where I no longer feel like I’m waiting for my life to start.

There’s so much I still don’t know. What I do know, and what I now have to believe and espouse, is that the internet is powerful. I’m sure I’m surprising no one to mention it. But really think about the power in the word ‘powerful,’ though. You hear it all the time—a powerful new windshield wiper, the powerful new fragrance, the new power anklet. Maybe those are small sources of power for someone, but not for me. The internet, though—it’s power available to everyone. Power that’s all around, that’s inherent in the medium, that only has to be channeled towards a certain goal. The internet is that band of wild horses Mick Jagger howls about. It doesn’t belong to anyone inherently, it’s only funneled by people who grab ahold.

And it means you can develop all kinds of personal connections with authors, humorists, and that few-seasons-ago Survivor contestant you just can’t get out of your head. There might be some sheepish trepidation when beginning to tweet at a person, starting with that @ sign, backspacing over their handle over and over—“Oh, they don’t want to hear from me. Oh, I look desperate,” you say. But time makes you bolder—that’s just the effect of the internet. And then the best day of your life happens, like the time I told Hugh Hefner on Twitter that I loved him, and he favorited it. It’s never going to get better than that.

Sometimes this goes off-site and you make IRL friends. But sometimes it’s enough to just have the online connection, just to be known virtually to each other. Meeting doesn’t make it real. Smiling when you see her quip—that’s real. Seeing a handle pop up and thinking, “Wonder what’s up with her?” Following each other and liking each other’s shit—to me, that’s a friend. And why not? To me, as much as it sounds like a Pixar theme, I think a friend’s a great thing no matter where you find one. So let us know your experience. Have you made friends online?

—Trace Barnhill

Photographed by Tom Newton.

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