A topic that has been in my conversations, and my head, for a while now is online relationships. Specifically online relationships and what they mean to me.
I have met a lot of awesome people during my time playing online games. Some I met ingame, some I met on Twitter and others I just got to know via friends. I’ve met 2 consecutive boyfriends online, one of which I had a relationship with for over 3 years. I’ve met one of my now closest guy friends during my time playing Horde and we meet regularly.
I’ve met lovely people who all live in different countries and who have offered me a place to stay when I ever decide to travel that way and other lovely people who have helped me out with my blog, my stream or my other social media stuff.
Here comes the big “but” though. I find it increasingly complicated to keep up with my online friendships. Some people you just lose touch with over time, some people don’t really turn out to be who you thought them to be and some people I find really difficult to be friends with online because I would rather have them near me in real life. And that hurts.
I’ve been noticing that online friendships for me have a different value than IRL friendships. This is not to be misinterpreted. I have a lot of awesome online friends who are always there for me and who I have tons and tons of fun with. But it’s just not the same as my best friend who lives 3 towns over and who I can visit whenever I want. Who can come over and give me a hug when I need it. Who I can talk to in person, so that I don’t just see text but also look into her eyes and see her body language. These are things I obviously miss in online friendships. They feel more shallow in a way, more distant. Which isn’t weird because most of my online friends ARE distant.
Another thing that has been bothering me is the attitude of a certain friend. We have a bit of history together, we met IRL and explored the possibility of us becoming more than friends but it didn’t happen. I’m still trying to give this a place in my heart and my mind because I felt we had a very strong emotional connection online and when we met we had a very strong connection in real life aswell. I’d like to draw attention to using the word “connection” here. I don’t consider online relationships to be a thing. For me to be in a relationship there has to have been IRL contact of some sort. To me you are not in a relationship with someone you’ve never seen or, if you have, you’ve never even kissed.
A romantic relationship can exist online for a good part. It’s how mine managed to survive. I didn’t get to see my ex that much and WoW and Facebook were ways for us to still “see” eachother on a daily basis. But in my opinion there is no such thing as a relationship when it is ONLY online, without any IRL stuff happening.
Now that my attitude on this matter is clear, let’s get back to the friend I mentioned before. We had a strong emotional connection, we met up, it didn’t work out then. Since then our friendship has been a rollercoaster, sometimes we’re close and sometimes I feel so distant that I wonder if we’re still friends at all. For him I was the first girl he was romantic with for a long time in real life. He has told me of his ex-girlfriends and I thought they were actual ex-girlfriends. But they turned out to be nothing more than internet girlfriends… Something I consider to be bullshit (excuse my language). Ofcourse it’s possible to have feelings for someone online, but to call it a real relationship? I think that takes it pretty far. Especially since he’s been downplaying what happened between us. In my mind it doesn’t make sense. How can you call someone an ex-girlfriend if you’ve never even been romantic with that person but downplay the only actual romance you’ve had in a long time?
In a way this hurts me beyond belief. In a way I understand. I have had a lot of IRL friends and boyfriends. This person hasn’t. He lives online, has all his friends online and is a completely different man in real life than he is on the internet. Something I don’t understand either. I’m me, whether you see me online or offline, I’m the same person. Maybe it’s the fact that you can get away with more on the internet that draws people to say or act in ways they never would in real life, but in a way you’re just cheating on yourself and the people you call your friends.
All of this (and some other stuff that I might talk about in the future) has made me reconsider my approach to my online friends. I notice that I’m starting to filter. I notice that I prefer to talk to people that I have less of an emotional connection to because it’s easier for me to stay distant then. I’m taking distance to my online friends and I think in a way I’m protecting myself with this. To protect myself from being hurt by people that I technically know everything and nothing about. It’s so very tricky. It’s so easy to trust someone online. It’s so easy to talk to people online. But it’s also easy to get betrayed and hurt online. Especially for someone like me who genuinely likes social contact and who isn’t afraid to express feelings. You think you know someone, but do you really know someone if you never get to see them in real life? If you never get to look in their eyes? If you never have them stand infront of you and talk? If they are never within touching distance?
All these questions are going through my mind. And they’re scary and comforting at the same time.