Photo: Rico S
As a millennial, I was born and raised with the rapidly growing concept of the internet. From the time I knew how to operate the World Wide Web, I was constantly wanting to explore and connect with other internet users. In fact, I can even recall being ten years old and chatting with strangers on Yahoo! chat.
I know what you’re thinking – “It’s a miracle she wasn’t murdered!” However, the reality of the matter is that I was always conscious of hiding my identity and what the identity may be of those I spoke with on the internet even at an age as young as ten years old.
Looking back on it at the age of 22, it seems as though my fascination for communicating with others over the internet was a result of something I was born with: the talent for communicating with written words and the lack of talent for communicating verbally. I even dreamed of a day where I could have a device that could send and receive written messages to my friends before texting on cell phones even came to be. Today, I can type 100 words per minute on a QWERTY keyboard.
My love for communicating over the internet resulted in numerous online friendships. When I was 13 years old, I met someone named Amy, who lived in Chicago while I was living in Minnesota. We met through an online networking game. We became fast friends, met in person a few years later, then even attended college together. We still remain to be good friends today and speak on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
At 17 years old, I met someone through a website called Omegle.com, which is a site that randomly pairs two users to a private chat. This person’s name was Derrick, and he was the first person I ever fell in love with. He lived in Aruba. Yes, Aruba, the tiny island in the Caribbean over 2,000 miles away from my home state of Minnesota.
From that point on, I struggled with explaining the fact that I could develop such a connection solely through technology. Most didn’t, and still don’t, understand how it would be possible. The idea of physical presence and is something most can’t understand developing a friendship or any sort of connection without.
Whether or not someone can understand or believe it, I am living, breathing proof that meaningful connections can be made through the sole use of technology. As a result of my experiences, my goal and constant effort is to offer a new perspective on the idea of developing and maintaining online friendships and to enlighten others that it is indeed possible. I believe this is especially important due to society’s increasing use of technology and social media.
An article describing online intimacy states,
“Intimacy now develops in both digital and physical realms, often crossing freely between the two. If we accept the equal value of virtual friendships to their IRL analogues (perhaps even doing away with the pejorative acronym), we open ourselves up to a range of new possibilities for connection.”
When one considers technology as a source of possibilities for connections, online friendships seem to become a more valid concept. It is my belief that communication through technology is a beautiful and wonderful thing, but it takes a person willing to understand, learn, and utilize the ability to harness it. As a millennial, I have faith that our world will learn to accept and cherish it.