I used to be pretty uncomfortable about meeting people on the internet. Especially when it came to seeing them IRL. I think it was a big part of the culture I grew up in, when the internet was fresh and exciting, but a little terrifying.
These days though, I meet the most amazing people online. People I consider friends. People who support me through my challenges and who have seen me be incredibly vulnerable. (Some of them would probably even let me crash at their house, if I happened to be driving through their state.)
Internet friends = Real friends
I think a big piece of this change has come from working from home. It can be isolating. But that opened me up to less conventional means of connecting. It was a scary change and I wanted to seek out others who had been through it. And you know where you can find the people who are also working at home on their computer? The internet.
Another big piece is confidence. I’m learning to separate my self-worth from peoples’ reactions to me. I’m learning that other people are responsible for themselves, so it’s not putting them out to make a request. It’s not taking something from them to try to connect. In fact, with a touch of (genuine) flattery, most people seem more than happy to exchange a few e-mails, give me advice, or grab a cup of coffee. And nice, warm, responsive people like that are the only kind of people I want to be friends with anyway!
We lose nothing by reaching out.
The trick for me was to stop thinking of people as my “real” friends or my “internet” friends. The line started to get blurry when time after time, I realized that an “internet” friend was the right person to answer my question, hear me out, enjoy this one meme, or whatever it was.
So I started sharing it all: the good and the bad, the requests and the suggestions, the encouragement and the doubts with whomever I thought would connect with it most. And I started giving myself to my “internet” friends the way I would to a “real” friend – with a supportive text message or a recommendation for the best Trader Joe’s cheese varieties for their upcoming party.
And suddenly that line was gone. They were all just my friends.
We lose nothing by giving of ourselves.
As with meeting people IRL, you probably won’t find your new best friend in a smelly back alley of the internet. You have to explore a bit, so you can find the good neighborhoods.
Some of my favorite places require a small fee for entry, which helps shape a like-minded community. One example is The Sisterhood, a safe, educational space where female entrepreneurs can be vulnerable and supportive. There’s also the accountability group I joined to help me work through a course I purchased.
There are many spaces like this, both free and paid, if you look for them. It’s what I hope my Facebook group, The Intentional Wedding, will be for brides.
It takes time to find real friends.
There are almost 7.5 billion people on this earth. I find that number so staggering, but in a way, it’s reassuring. Because most of them have something in common with you. And probably at least a few million would be happy to be your friend. So why not ask?
It takes patience and curiosity and a few wrong turns, but if you keep exploring, you’ll find your tribe. If you stop only consuming and you start giving and interacting, great people will respond to you.
I’m so pleased with the people I’ve met so far and I can’t wait for all the new internet friends to come!