Real Life Friendships Through Virtual Relationships

Trouble Ahead

“What?!” My daughter Katrina looked at me as if I’d suddenly sprouted an extra eyeball in my chin. “You and Laura are going to meet someone you met on the INTERNET this summer?”

I could see the mind movie reels playing in her imagination—all the things we had warned her about coming true in the life of her own mom and sister.

“She’s a safe person,” I assured her. “She has four adorable little kids and her husband is a youth pastor.”

Katrina shook her head in disbelief that I would break my own rules of safety and actually meet someone from online. In a big city. With just Laura for protection.

Later, I showed her my friend’s Facebook page and photos of the cute kids. “Look, she’s a real person—no one can fake a family like that!”

When she noticed my friend’s profile picture, she exclaimed, “THAT’S who you’re going to go see? She’s famous!” I chuckled, glad that I had Katrina’s approval for meeting an Internet friend in real life.

Oh, how life has changed since the birth of the Internet and social media!

Five years ago, I had never heard of twitter. Now, I’m leaving the comfort of my gliding rocker and daring to branch out and meet strangers whose lives and prayers I’ve shared for the last two-and-a-half years.

For an introvert who has never had more than a small circle of close friends, this is terrifying yet exhilarating. I feel terrified because I will meet people without the proper introductions or mutual acquaintances—my go-to excuse to stay in my introverted little shell like a hermit crab when new people come around.

I feel exhilarated because for the first time in my life I’ve become part of a bigger community outside of my self-imposed narrow little habitat. In other words, all too often I’ve been pretty satisfied with myself and not too worried about anyone else. My self has satisfied me for all too long, and social media has opened up a whole new world of community for me.

Community that functions like I think church should function. Community that prays and uplifts at the drop of a tweet. The friendships and influence of my growing community have challenged and equipped me to venture out into the wider world with eyes wide open.

There’s suffering to be met, and I know I’m going to meet it. Click To Tweet Along the way, I’d love to meet some of you. To come alongside of you (through social media or in real life) in your suffering. To be an understanding and empathetic ear.

I’d love to meet more of you (pending Katrina’s approval, of course, if the meeting takes place in real life).

How has social media changed your life?

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a ‘recovering cancer caregiver’ who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Social Media has given me you! so glad for you and so many of my other friends I have met through blogging and linking up to different sites. It’s amazing technology and I love the opportunities it brings. I’m glad to have you met you, friend!
    Rachel Quigley recently posted…Four Ways to Stay FocusedMy Profile

    • And I am glad to have met, you, too! Maybe I need to do a trip through every state and stop for coffee with online friends in each state–wouldn’t that be a hoot!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

      • Donne

        Hmmm…you could probably write a book about the experience and write off the cost of the trip! Given your current profession, though, it may have to be stretched out over multiple years. Let me know if you’d like company on such a jaunt – I’m game!

  • I am so excited that you are getting to meet and that you have your daughters approval! It is hard to explain things as knowing when something is or isn’t safe… My daughter is 12 and gets mad that i post pics online of myself when I am so strict about my kids posting their own photos. I assure her that because I am an adult that I am aware of the dangers and that as she ages she will learn more about trust and how to safely navigate the internet. Being a mommy if often full of oxymorons!! <3 your post and your honesty with your sweet girl!
    Marisa recently posted…The First Time Ever I Saw Your FaceMy Profile

    • ;). I love how as my daughters enter adulthood they have started worrying more about my safety (and theirs, too) and whether or not I’ll enjoy movies or shows based on what they think they know about be–always great conversation starters!
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

  • Yes- I love this online community. And those who have never experienced it just can’t understand how it can be so. But it’s true and encouraging… and this: “Community that functions like I think church should function.” I’m so happy for you that you are going to meet your friend. Enjoy! Loved your words, friend! 🙂
    karen brown recently posted…MEETMy Profile

    • When my husband asked me last night during our walk why I disappear for two hours on Thursday nights I explained, “It’s five-minute Friday during two-hour Thursday.” He looked blankly at me and said, “Yeah, but what do you GET out of it?” “Church,” I replied. (and I’m still chuckling over your ‘Meet’ post….).
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

  • I love the honesty of children. It’s so refreshing. 😀 And I would love it so much if we were so much more open with our church families. Church is for the broken, not Facebook.

    Hugs,
    Melinda
    Melinda recently posted…FMF – MeetMy Profile

  • Tara

    THIS: and social media has opened up a whole new world of community for me! Exactly! I never knew how amazing social media could be! I’m exvited to meet some new friends in real life this summer!

  • So true, Anita. I remember thinking I was crazy when friendships developed with people I’d never met and because of distance aren’t likely to. And I find it rather sad that some of them will check on me, the deeper parts of me, more than good friends I’ve had for years. I get the part about it being more like church should be. I’ve met two online blogger friends. Mostly due to the fact we live in South Florida and people like to come here. It wasn’t so scary at all 😉 Enjoy!
    Debby recently posted…Five-Minute Friday {meet}My Profile

    • There’s something about Internet friendships that are both anonymous and intimate at the same time. Maybe we tell them more because we feel freed by the anonymity to confess and reveal deeper parts of our hearts. Which means maybe we need to take stock in our real life relationships and see if those could become deeper as well.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

  • Donne

    The Internet has been a great boon for us introverts. It allows us to befriend like-minded people and occasionally step out of our comfort zones and meet them. 🙂
    I hope you and Laura have a great trip and enjoy the time you’ll get to spend with your ‘eFriend’.

  • I agree that social media and the internet have changed the world tremendously! I’ve made a couple of dear friends through blogging. I keep up with other friends on Facebook, and it’s often more than we’d have time to share in person. I stay in touch with my best friend, who lives 2000 miles away, via email. And I met my husband through the internet.

    I would love to meet those blogging friends someday. They happen to live in the same metro area, which would make it easier. 🙂

    I’d encourage you, as long as you follow reasonable rules of safety, to meet your online friends. Enjoy the larger community you’ve found!
    Melissa recently posted…Meeting New People (Five Minute Friday)My Profile

    • ;). Maybe that’s a future post–how to meet your online friends in a responsible way in five easy steps! Back in the day, I had pen pals, but the Internet makes it so much easier to build relationships with like-minded people!.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

  • I “downloaded” a friend in 1997 from a Christian chatroom – she and I have been best friends since. We’ve been to their home in Indiana and they’ve come to ours in NC. She is a dear! This past winter, the Interweb community or as Karrilee calls it her “tribe” has been an integral part of my everyday world and I consider all of you as a great gift from God. Winter days can become long and lonesome when you are home alone day after day with only a 14-lb fuzzy dog to keep you company. I love the online neighborhood I have found and count it all joy that I ‘moved in.’
    Susan Shipe recently posted…five minute friday: meetMy Profile

  • That’s so cool that you ‘downloaded’ a friend! Ok, what is the ‘interweb’? I’ve heard Karilee mention it a time or two and I’m all confused.
    Anita Ojeda recently posted…Real Life Friendships Through Virtual RelationshipsMy Profile

    • Donne

      It’s a nickname for the Internet. I assume it comes from combining the words Internet and World Wide Web. Many people don’t realize that the WWW represents only a very small portion of the information available on the Internet. Perhaps using Interweb makes them think that they are accessing more information than regular Web users. 🙂

  • Anita, isn’t it amazing how much social media has broadened our borders? I’ve met amazing people online I never would have met in real-life situations. And I love getting to know them through blogging and social media interactions. And, I am loving getting to know people through FMF. 🙂

    I hope your time with your friend is wonderful!
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Meet: What Comes Next?My Profile

  • I love my online community so much. I have been introduce to people I would have never met due to the miles in between us but also to a few that were in my backyard and I had no idea. In many ways my friends that I have met online began deeper and truer than my in real life ones but now all are treasured equally. I love how God has used social media to connect us all together.
    Amy P Boyd recently posted…Meeting Each Other Right Where We AreMy Profile

  • I love that she thinks I’m famous!! For whatever reason. 🙂 Can’t wait to meet you guys IRL!
    Kirsten Oliphant recently posted…Out of the Box Mother’s Day Gift IdeasMy Profile

  • I had to laugh when I read this. Just last weekend I went to a retreat, and finally met several women I’d connected with online. We joked we were finally getting to meet our imaginary friends. Maybe next year you can join us? I’d love to meet you IRL (pending your daughters approval, of course).

  • I’m laughing from one introvert to another. How many times recently have I let’s see driven to Oklahoma to meet for lunch with two on-line Bible sisters, one in Texas for coffee, and several hundred in North Carolina for a retreat. And because of those studies, I now blog and I tweet. Who would have thought I would be doing this – only God to minister to others. Loved your thoughts.

  • I’m so glad I’ve gotten to meet you, Anita. And I’m blessed so immensely by the community I’ve found in the inner-workings of my computer. 😉 You are so right – social media has really changed the game, but God in His infinite wisdom has used it to His glory. We are doing and hearing unique stories, and reading powerful words that we may never have had the opportunity before. Hopefully some day I can give you a hug and tell you in person how much I treasure your heart.
    Tiffany recently posted…This God of Ours {FMF: Meet}My Profile

  • Loved reading the comments near as much as your post… because the comments testify to the message! I do look forward to our face to face fun… someday!
    Wendy recently posted…Praying for America – When a mom is already so busy doing everything elseMy Profile

  • I love that I can make friends all over the country/world from my own house. I met Amanda Huffman from the survivors group a couple weeks ago.. it was neat to get to meet her in person, but I agree that it is a strange feeling to meet someone for the first time after you feel like you already know them. Have fun meeting Kirsten!

  • Some of my greatest supporters and friends have been met online. Not just all over the world, but here locally too. I am unable to drive because of my heatlh and to be able to still be in contact with others thought the internet has kept me sane. I have met many local friends online and are now in real life friends!
    Kim M recently posted…Wordless Wednesday: Say what now Starbucks?!My Profile