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Oh, man. The big question that seems to come to light a lot more often than it did back in 2010. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing- it's actually quite fascinating!
With technology only getting better and better, it's a given that it's easier to connect with friends, relatives, and absolute strangers. For instance, with one name search on Facebook, you can either add your aunt *Grace Hurney or accidentally add someone who's name is also Grace Hurney.
I have met my longest internet friend through Talk Life, an app that aims to help and support troubled teens as well as provide help with varying degrees of self-harm and basic counseling. Just from the description alone, you can probably guess that I was once a troubled teen myself (although not so troubled now, but not enough to need an outlet on my phone for it.)
**Daryn and I ended up in a big group chat on the app Kik after talking to a few others on Talk Life and agreeing that we'd love to have a group to talk to and pour our problems and worries into without the fear of repercussions from adults that so often accompany the talks of self help, care, and overall attempts to just be comfortable in our own lives. The group that we had lasted for a number of months; whenever any of us had recurring thoughts of harm or anything simple as just sadness and/or loneliness the rest of us would just shower them with love, affection, and compliments as well as tips on getting themselves out of that certain funk.
Sounds like a pretty sound support system, yes? It was, until Daryn and I got a little older and realized that neither of us needed to be in the group anymore. We no longer needed an outside support system because we have become our own support system, and our biggest fans. We started having plans for the future and we were both becoming more aware of how beautiful life actually is. We no longer craved attention from others who were uninterested in giving themselves love and attention.
Daryn is the single most sensitive person I have ever met. That's not a bad thing at all- I simply mean that he knows when something has changed. I remember when I decided to FaceTime him at 2 A.M. my time because I wasn't feeling too great about myself. When I started talking, he immediately knew something is wrong; I wasn't being my usual, chirpy self. I was trying to hide the hitch in my voice by talking in a lower pitch and trying to hide that I've been crying by adverting my eyes, refusing to make eye contact. He could feel and obviously see that something was wrong. This was one of many talks that I will remember fondly, just on the basis of that he cared about me regardless of the time and the distance; he is always able to talk me through anything and to make me feel like I'm on top of everything.
To this day, Daryn and I are still very much friends- I about to be married this coming June, and him to graduate from high school this year. But this is not the point of the story. The point of the story is this: we have never met face to face. We have a 2 hour time difference between us, and about 15 states in between as well.
Internet friendships are a real thing! Whether they happen to develop through online gaming, buy/sell/trade groups, or through a support app like with me and Daryn, they're still just as valid and just as concrete as friendships that are carried on in person.
For instance, we both happen to have the same birthday. Every year we have told each other happy birthday, and continue to plan on one day meeting in person. At least once a month we will make time to FaceTime each other to keep up on what's been going on in each other's lives. We have gotten older and more wise, but that doesn't mean we should ditch each other just because we have grown up. He is planning on coming to my wedding, and I am planning on going down to where he is to adventure for a week alongside him.
I have felt a meaningful connection with him ever since we became acquainted and agreed to keep talking even when we left the Kik group. And, I can agree with many others, that internet friendships are just as real as friendships carried on face-to-face, if not more absolute.
*This is a name that is made up. If there's someone with the same name, it's purely coincidental.
**Name has been changed to protect identity.