I find it a lot easier talking to people online than I do in person. I think I’m the same with texts and letters too. I guess this is due to my awkwardness or social anxiety, whatever you may call it.
Due to this I have spoken to people online for as long as I can remember. The first being way back when MSN came out. I spoke to my school friends but people would also add me even though I didn’t know who they were. I accepted them but I was able to know that I shouldn’t tell them some details. I don’t know how I knew this because back then it was relatively new, this was about thirteen years ago now. My parents didn’t really use computers and you didn’t really hear about it in the news but I made friends, without telling them everything about me. I wouldn’t say I lied, I was just careful or upfront and said I didn’t feel comfortable telling them whatever they may have asked.
I also found a site called ‘Habbo’. You had a little cartoon version of yourself walking around different ‘rooms’ and you could chat with other people. Most seemed to be around the same age as me back then and after talking we would add each other on MSN and talk some more. At one point I think I wanted lots of ‘friends’ on MSN but as time went on I realised who I could have proper conversations with. I met some really nice people. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience. Some people on Habbo would come straight out with some inappropriate stuff but I was not into that and just walked away (so to say) Even now I am still friends with one of them on Facebook. With sites like these you need to be aware and smart and know yourself. If someone says something inappropriate, don’t talk to them. That’s all you have to do. You have no idea who is on the other side of that computer. They may say they are a certain age/sex etc but you literally have no idea.
It’s advanced since I started talking to people online. Now there’s Photoshop, Facebook etc. People find it a whole lot easier to hide who they are and pretend to be what you may ‘want’ them to be.
It is one thing talking to someone online but a whole other story if you want to meet them. I first met someone back in 2010. I met him on a dating site and we talked everyday for a couple of months before we met. I didn’t really like having my photo taken but I sent him a couple, just of me with my dog or something like that. Where as I think I had only seen one photo of him, ‘RED FLAG’ you would say. I felt I was smart about it. I would ask him questions to try to ‘trick’ him to see if he was telling the truth. He was also out-of-town and so there was travel involved. I’m also a private person and so I didn’t really tell anyone about him apart from my best friend and my mum, only a couple of days before I actually saw him. I did find it hard because I don’t think everyone understands about meeting people online. They were completely understanding though. When we did decide to meet he came to my town, in a public place. I told my mum where I was meeting him and texted her as soon as I had met him. Luckily for me he was who he said he was. Now looking back I have no idea why I agreed to meet him when I had hardly seen any pictures I definitely wouldn’t do that now. With the travelling between towns it didn’t work out and we lost contact. Though he got back in touch at the beginning of the year and we’ve become good friends.
I have met people on pen pal and email sites and have made two good friends. One from America and one from Finland. I’ve loved America for as long as I can remember so it has been good learning more about it, the same goes about Finland. I didn’t realise how different it was to the UK.
I made a friend through tumblr, which then went onto Twitter and we ended up meeting at a Supernatural convention that we were both at. We had been talking for a couple of years and it was a very busy/public place for us to meet.
Most recently I met someone on another internet friend site which is supposed to be a site where you make friends with people around the world. I have to admit, there were a few forward people on there asking me to be there girlfriend. These are men from around the world and I am not sure if it is part of their culture to be like that, but I don’t like that sort of thing. I know when to take things with a pinch of salt and they were friendly and I would speak to them and learn about their lives. I also stopped speaking to some if I thought they were being plain rude, which some where. I also met someone from the UK and we got talking and we’re still talking a year later. I love that I have made that friendship because I feel it has been one I needed when I felt low and now I feel really good. I don’t think they realise how much they’ve helped me.
There are so many ways to connect with others around the world, and it’s always good to meet new people and make new friends, you just need to have your wits about you when talking to them. Have that reminder in the back of your mind that they may not be who they say they are, or that they may have lied about something they did say. I know it’s awful to think they’re lying to you, but it’s so easy to do it and to keep lies going now. I would tell little white lies now and again, only if I wasn’t sure about the other person. If they asked where I lived, I would say the next town to me, or if they asked how old I was, I would say a year younger/older etc. Nothing that would get me on Catfish but just something so they wouldn’t hopefully know where to find me. I didn’t do this with the real friendships I made, just when someone may have added me who I wasn’t 100% about. I think video calls on Skype are excellent if you want to have a legit friendship/relationship. Then at least you know they are the person you saw in the picture. Then over time you will learn more about their personality.
Some tips (you may have heard hundreds of times) –
- Don’t tell them personal details no matter how much you may want too (especially to begin with)
- Phone calls, video calls.
- Don’t ever tell them your address.
- Talk for a while before you agree to meet.
- Don’t ever give them money.
- If you are meeting them TELL SOMEONE. Tell them where and when. Maybe they will come with you and wait in the background or phone/text them to let them know you are ok.
- Don’t ever take nude photos of yourself. If they really cared, they wouldn’t ask for them and you shouldn’t feel like you need to send them to keep them interested in the ‘friendship/relationship.’
Remember that some people just want someone to talk too. They may not have many friends and it could be easier for them talking to people online, just like it was for me. Also, depending on where the people are from they will have different ideas of what maybe wrong or right. What maybe good forms of conversations. I spoke to some people from Africa who were very polite and complimentary (something us Brits are all to unfamiliar with) and I found it weird. Though after speaking to a few of them I realised that is part of their culture.
If you are young, talk to your parents about the friends you make online, ‘Oh my friend…from…said something similar to that.’ ‘I’ve made a friend in…who said they do…’ Try to let them know you have different friends to the ones they may see. It may help them understand more about yourself. I know it can be hard but it is good to be a little open.
Friendships can be weird, fun, exciting and rare. I wish everyone had at least one person they could be their complete selves with. Who’s to say that is the person down the street and not the person on the other side of the world?