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Online Friendships

With the rise of online gaming over the past twenty years in tandem with the internet, many have found companionship with friends online. Gaming together, talking over voice chat, and texting is a fantastic way to make and uphold friendships even when the distance may be great between the two. But are online friendships the same as face-to-face friendships? Do they provide the same developmental benefits, or are we stunting ourselves by prioritizing relationships where we don’t interact in person?



How do online friendships occur?

For many of those of older generations, relationships formed over the internet are often seen as shallow or meaningless. After all, how can you truly call someone a friend if you’ve never met them?

With how easy it is to reach out and form a connection over a common interest, it becomes easy to develop rapport with another person over the internet. Whether you’re gaming, looking for new cooking recipes, or laughing at funny cat images, friendships normally start via a similar interest. But friendships through gaming often go deeper than simply enjoying the same thing. You end up spending late nights with your group going on raids or playing team-centric games with your newfound buddies, which typically require teamwork and communication skills. Before you know it, you’ve curated companionship with a group of people from all across the world. 



What are the benefits or drawbacks to online friendships?

An overview of both the beneficial and detrimental elements of online friendships will give you a better idea of what these relationships could look like in your personal life, and how they could affect you.


Benefits 

As for benefits, first and foremost, you are able to build lasting friendships with other people who share your interests from all around the globe, without any judgment based on physical attributes or qualities. Online friend groups are typically very diverse, as all it requires to make friends is an internet connection and a device in the modern day, meaning the friends you interact with on a daily basis could be from across the world. This gives everyone the chance to embrace ideas, cultures, and ways of life that are unlike their own, giving us all a valuable chance to be accepting to everyone in our lives. 

Second, online friendships are a great opportunity for those who are more introverted to exist in a community of like-minded individuals. Of course, online friendships are no substitute for face-to-face interactions, but chatting to friends in a pressure-free environment is often very comforting for those who find social interaction draining or difficult.

Lastly, online friendships are extremely accessible! As mentioned previously, all it requires is the internet and a device to build up a friend group that can last a lifetime. Whether it is a mobile phone, tablet, computer, or console, there are so many opportunities for those who may find it difficult, or cannot due to their circumstances, to make friends. Community can be found anytime and anywhere, and gaming serves as yet another way to connect those who may never have crossed paths before.



Drawbacks

With every thorough article, we of course cannot talk about the benefits without also discussing the drawbacks of online friendships. A primary detriment to primarily having virtual buddies is something we are all familiar with in this day and age - developing an unhealthy relationship with the amount of time spent online. Screen time is a contentious topic, as many think that being “plugged in” is very detrimental to our health, so be aware of how much time is spent online. The second drawback is potential safety concerns. At the AEA, we always encourage thorough research into how to stay safe online before diving in. This includes: never giving out personal information, having an open line of communication with trusted adults, and trusting your instinct when it comes to bad actors. Similar to the offline world, there will always be bad actors looking to cause harm, and we encourage everyone to be vigilant when making new friends. Lastly, the downside of having primarily online friends is that face to face or IRL (in-real-life) relationships can be strained. Keeping a healthy balance between your time spent online and offline means you will be able to create friendships that bridge distance and time!


The Key to Online Friendships: Balance

As it is for many things in life, there is no right or wrong answer as to whether online friends are good or bad. Growing up with the advent of communication via the internet gave me amazing opportunities to meet people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life, and online communication is not going anywhere in the near future. Embracing this new age of communication is important, but as always, we recommend setting up a system that works for you to keep yourself safe online!

 

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