Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Internet Friends

Today's post is about friendships made over the internet. So before I get started I want to make this clear. No, not everyone on the internet wants to do you hard, but those people do exist. So be careful and use your common sense. Don't give out personal information to people you've met online and exercise EXTREME caution when meeting them in real life. I have always chosen to meet in crowded places where any I unease I may display will be noticed by those around me (as opposed to many crowded places where other people are too busy with what they're doing to notice strange behavior of those around them). Also, despite being in my 20s, I always let me parents knows my exact plans for meeting up with someone new (and they generally make me check in periodically while doing this).

Safety warning aside, the internet is a great place to meet new people. I have been fortunate enough to make so many good friends online. I joined micro-blogging site tumblr in September 2009 and that website has been so good to me, in terms of friendships. Just over 4 years later, I have more than half a dozen close friends who I met through the site, and that many more who are on their way to become good friends of mine. One of the best parts? These friends live all over, from a few towns away to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Do you know what that means? They all bring a fresh perspective to life (and to my problems, when I need advice). Despite our shared interests (more on that soon), we lead very different lives. We grew up in different towns, in different families, among different friends. Their choices and beliefs are informed by vastly different experiences. Which means when they talk about their lives, I sometimes get my own beliefs shaken up. We all form our own assumptions based on our experiences, but they aren't always right. Conversation with other people helps us shed those prejudices. One of my friends was home-schooled in rural Wisconsin. He was responsible for making sure he learned what he needed to know. I will be honest, I am not nearly self-motivated enough to be responsible for every aspects of my own education. I have let too many reading assignments slip through the cracks. And that's with teachers and professors there to keep me on track. But Blaine did it. I have another friend who is from Ontario, Canada. That's less than 3 hours from where I went to college (SUNY University at Buffalo, FYI), but the Canadian and American education systems are different, especially after high school. She completed a shorter, more career oriented program than I did. And despite the fact that most Americans have been conditioned to believe that 4 year Bachelors programs are superior to programs like yours, we both ended up with similar jobs. But she found employment in less time than I did, and her job is much more involved than mine. And that taught me that the path I'd always assumed was best (and I assumed a 4 year degree was the best option for everyone), wasn't necessarily so.

In high school and college (and even after college, I will admit) it can be hard to find people around you who love the same things you love do, and with the same intensity that you love them. The internet is handy for this. It might as well be a giant magnet for people who are really, really interested in specific things. It's home to so many message boards and website specifically for people who want to talk extensively about a particular thing (or many things). Long on there it is, a group of people who love what you love and will gladly spend hours talking about it with you. Are you still devoted to a band whose members have gone their separate ways? There's an online home for people still mourning that loss. Are you so into a book or tv show that you want to expand on that universe via fan fiction? There are multiple websites out there filled with people who do the exact same thing. Is your bathroom overflowing with beauty products, so much so that you can barely see the counter? There are people on youtube who make a living talking about makeup and skincare and hair products. There is a place for everything you could possibly want to talk about.

Around 2004/2005 my favorite band, Something Corporate, broke up. I listened to other bands, including SoCo front-man Andrew McMahon's new project, Jack's Mannequin. But Something Corporate was still my favorite. So in December 2009, when Something Corporate announced they would be reuniting for a festival in California, I was overjoyed (they would go on to play 2 more festivals and do a month-long reunion tour). But I didn't really have anyone to share that excitement with. So I turned to tumblr and tracked down a bunch of people who were as excited as I was. We talked about out favorite songs, watched old interviews, and counted down the days until the first reunion show. It was so much fun. Eventually, some of us even attended reunion tour shows together. And the excitement died down, we kept talking. We shared new music, talked about school. It's been 3 and half years since then, and those people are some of my closest friends. They know things about me that I haven't shared with friends from college. My life is so much richer and easier to navigate because I have them.

me, at the Something Corporate reunion tour, with the band's drummer (Brian Ireland)

In short, there are amazing people talking about amazing things on the internet. They have so much to offer. You have so much to offer. Go find them

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