The Advantages and Misconceptions of Having Online Friends

Online friends aren’t that dangerous. Kids are generally wary of talking to people on the internet, especially because of the online predator stories they’ve heard. But some teenagers have made online friends before, and they know it’s not necessarily as risky as people make it sound.

Most parents teach their kids not to talk to people they do not know through the Internet, and they have legitimate reasons for doing so. The Internet is an open space where people can say and see whatever they want, all while hiding behind computer screens. Online predators can certainly be a threat if teens are not careful.

Some also argue that while a person you befriend on the web may not be dangerous, the relationship between you two would be shallow and worthless. They would argue that instead, you should build relationships with the people you know in real life.

But meeting people on the Internet, if done safely, has many benefits. Teens make friends in real life because they have similar interests such as TV shows, music, or activities. The same concept applies to making friends online. People on the Internet who have similar interests get to know each other, and they learn that there are others just like them living in different parts of the world. They can benefit from befriending individuals who are passionate about the same things, especially if there is no one around them in real life with the same interests.

Adrian Chen of The New Inquiry shared a story about his friend Austin whom he had first talked to through an online forum. Their mutual interest in video-making brought them together.

“When we met up…we hit it off instantly, and he remains one of my closest friends—a friendship which, now that I live across the country in New York, largely exists through Gchat and email,” said Chen.

Danielle Henderson of The Huffington Post honestly admitted that some of her online friendships stayed online, some failed, and some turned into real life relationships.

“I met one of my best friends on a message board for fans of Mike Doughty in 1999. Her posts there stood out from the usual fangirling—they were thick with sarcasm and cut with a dark streak of humor… We both lived in New York City, so we decided to meet at a Doughty concert, and we’ve been besties ever since (two years ago, I officiated her wedding),” wrote Henderson.

Additionally, teens often refrain from opening up to the people around them for fear of being judged or having malicious rumors spread, but online friends can provide encouragement and advice or simply listen and empathize with them. They can support each other and develop a deep bond just like friends in real life.

There are millions of other people just like us on the Internet who are afraid to talk to strangers online because they believe they could talking to a predator. We forget that many of them are individuals just like us who have no intentions of harming others. So long as teens act safely and don’t thoughtlessly share personal information such as addresses, making friends online can lead to wholesome relationships.

While this doesn’t mean everyone should go on the Internet and start making friends, people could be more accepting of the fact that individuals around them have online friends. Not all online friendships will work out, but regardless, they have the potential to develop into true friendships.