“Don’t talk to strangers.” I can’t quite remember if my parents ever explicitly told me this (they probably did) but I’m sure they, at the very least, implied it at one point in my life. Being the pilosopo that I was, I often wondered to myself: “Then how am I supposed to make friends?”
Funny enough, I’m now your very introverted, untalkative, not-very-sociable person. So there’s that.
Forming friendships is a totally different thing when it’s online, though. There’s something about being able to talk to people virtually that makes it a lot easier (for me, at least) to make friends. Maybe it’s the fact that they don’t necessarily get to see you, or because people often have a different persona when they interact with others on the internet… but that’s something to discuss on another day.
This isn’t to say we Zoomers talk to anyone and everyone we come across online. As “digital natives”, we’re pretty familiar with the types of people you can meet on the web. We know there are still creeps out there (Omegle, anyone?), we know that catfishing is a thing, and we definitely know not to share important information with a chunk of these people.
As someone who was taught about how dangerous it was to talk to strangers, I was wary of making friends online at first. I remember receiving a postcard from my internet friend in France and thought I needed to hide it from my parents, thinking they’d scold me for talking to people I’d never met in person. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my mother was actually happy, excited even, about me having a friend all the way in Europe. But that’s just me一 I can’t say the same for everyone else.
It’s become such a normal thing to befriend those you meet through the internet. Even moreso now that we can’t even go out to social events to try and make friends there.
More often than not, we get drawn to talking to people with similar interests as us.
For example, stan Twitter. If you don’t know what that is, you must be old一 no, I’m kidding. Stan Twitter is the “side” of Twitter wherein stans (fans, if you’re not familiar with the term) interact. I, for one, spend an embarrassing amount of time on my stan account, and I’ve even seen people form romantic relationships or find what they would call their “soulmates” on there.
I’ve made some really cool friends online, too, and was fortunate enough to actually meet some of them (and not get catfished!), squealing and hugging in excitement as if we’d been friends forever.
Unfortunately, not everyone will get that same experience. I have seen people go through some rough stuff when it comes to “making friends” via the internet. A good number of people have been deceived and even traumatized by their interactions with others online, which is exactly why we still have to remember to be careful.
For the younger Zoomers, my advice is to just steer clear of anyone that isn’t in your age range. If you don’t know how old they are, it’s probably best that you don’t talk to them altogether. And never ever give valuable information!
For those who aren’t minors anymore, such as myself, and think that you’re capable of being responsible and discerning enough of those you talk to online, you do you. But still, always make sure you’re not doing anything careless with these people you meet on social media.
Stranger danger is still a thing but we’re more aware of it now. Go have fun and make some internet friends but remember: safety first!