What is an online friend? Well, you can think of them as a modern-day penpal. Almost 47% of the world population use the internet, according to United Nations News. Therefore it isn’t surprising that those people are connecting with others who live nowhere near them.
If the saying is true that friends help the world go round, what about having friends around the world? According to Pew Research, 57% of teenagers have made a friend online, and 29% said they have made more than five online friendships. It is common to make these friends while playing video games and social media. According to the University of California, Irvine, many of these digital friendships serve the same purpose and qualities as face-to-face relationships.
Despite having similar qualities to traditional friendships, online friendships don’t have in person connections like other kids who have friends from school or in their community. Therefore, they have become even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic because many people have been spending much more time online. That may sound like a bad thing, but it can be helpful. You can meet new people without the hassle of social distancing, masks or even getting out of bed. It has not only been beneficial for young people but also for people of any age. Some adults have moved houses during the pandemic and can’t meet their neighbors face to face, but apps like Nextdoor allow you to virtually connect with people around you until it is safe to join social events again.
Some Jeff High students have online friends who have gotten them through tough times. For example, Junior Georgia Martin says, “It was nice to see how different their life was from mine. I learned about their past experiences and then finding out about mine.” Martin adds that these friendships are mutually beneficial. “I sort of became like their rock. Whenever they needed me or needed to talk to me, I was always there for them. I wish I could do anything for them even though they were like halfway across the world.We could do the same things even though our lifestyles were completely different.”
Amaya Russell, another Junior at Jeff High, says having an online friend has been beneficial for her, especially through the pandemic. “My online friend has been pretty helpful. Mainly which is like talking about my emotions and talking about stuff other people won’t talk about. They have helped me through a lot that other people won’t talk about, even people I know. They just listen and reply better and sometimes get your situation. It depends on the person, but my online friend has just been very helpful.”
For people who live outside the United States, online friendships can have an even bigger impact. “Jane” (who asked to use a pseudonym), a female from India, says, “Through the internet, we get to know about more things happening globally, and we become aware of our rights. By interacting with people from different nations, we get the idea of what we can do to bring change to our society to make it a more beautiful and safer society. People’s interaction with other people from this vast world can give them the idea for some good thoughts. For example, the farmer’s protest here in India is now becoming a worldwide movement. All can see and give a fair opinion. On the other hand, this is how we came to know about the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“John” from Iran (who also asked not to use his real name) says his friendships with people in other countries make the world better. “With this ideology, the new generation makes a more peaceful world,” he says.
The internet has become a world in itself which can benefit us just like our face-to-face reality. With the interconnectedness of the youth across the world, we will see how this impacts the future.