Friday, January 24, 2014

A Bit of Love: Appreciating my online (and now offline) friends

Every once in a while I, like many similar to me (I assume), go through a period of wondering whether there are things in my life that I could be doing better. Maybe I could go out more, or try more actively to make friends, maybe I should try cooking more at home and eating less Dominos, or being a better lover. This happens usually about once a month and tosses me into a guilty spiral of feeling like I am not a real adult, or am not living as much of a life as people that I know who are in the Peace Corps or doing capitalized Big Things. But, inevitably, I come out of it with the help of some of my friends — my internet friends, that is — and realize that life is great whether it is filled with capitalized or lowercased things.

When I was younger, I was under the impression that life was better if you had tons of people around you. I had a small group of close-knit friends that, rather than focussing on makeup or what to wear, would instead focus on having fun, flexing our imaginations and just, well, being young. But, as I grew older, the importance of being well-liked became more and more evident to me. I spent more of my time going out to parties, trying to meet new people and fit into "norms" than actually focusing on what was important, enjoyable or good for me. While doing this, I kept a pretty steady group of friends on a site called where I was allowed to be whoever I wanted to be, and be completely honest about my emotions. While I never told any of my "real life" friends about this hidden trove of freedom, I gradually began to spend more time founding relationships on there than I did with individuals in real life.

Along with this new feeling of happiness at having a "place to fit in" I became, conversely, incredibly depressed that I couldn't find anyone around me that had similar feelings or interests. I started wondering if there was something wrong with me when I would get off an hour long phone call with my best friend Walt (who I'd never met in person) and feel better than I did when I talked to my "best friends" in real life. I questioned whether this was normal or was indicative of a larger emotional issue, one that meant that I couldn't foster healthy relationships or had phobias of "real" commitment. Virtual life can't be the same as real life, right?

Wrong. I had a party my junior year in college where I essentially invited all of the people living on the East Coast that used Melodramatic to come. It was an entirely internet-based party, and I had never met any of the people that came to it in my life, though I considered many to be my closest confidantes. One of my friends, Anthony, even flew in from Cleveland just to hang out. We barbecued and talked like we just hadn't seen each other in a while and had a lot of catching up to do. It wasn't awkward even a little bit.

The next year, I had a similar party where myself and my significant other at the time hosted our guild members from World of Warcraft up to Rhode Island for the week. Again, nothing awkward. While we had spent hours online talking together in Vent chat, we had never met each other before—but it seemed like we'd known each other for years.

This is what I remind myself of whenever I feel like there is something abnormal or incorrect about my lifestyle. I'm a nerd. I bond more readily with people in-game and in-chat than I do when forced into an awkward conversation with them over a red solo cup. With gamers and individuals well-versed in web-culture we already have so much to talk about, even if we've never met, never chatted, and don't know each other's names. Gamers are, for the most part, more friendly and ready to make friends given the fact that their tendencies may fall well out of the social norm, too. They're cool with talking about what their favorite class to play in an MMORPG is, or which campaign they started recently, and will do so without feeling uncomfortable or nervous because they know already know that you are predisposed and down to listen.

Gaming has helped to forge some of the healthiest, most regular relationships in my whole life. I have best friends that I talk to and socialize with every day and know that, no matter what, even the people that I don't talk to every day will have my back if I need it. They know what I'm up to, they know how I'm doing, and even if we don't hang out every day, I haven't seen them in three years (or ever), or we don't get online together as much any more, they still love me and I love them. They will support me both in a raid or in real life, and that is what makes them the best. So what if I'm not traveling to Bali or making huge impressions on everyone I meet? I have my own little family guild here on the internet, and that is absolutely perfect for me.


  1. AND we can play a quick game or two once or twice a week to keep in touch and ramble on about silly things while getting completely destroyed by a totally unfair team comp in an ARAM...bastards.

    1. That we do, that we do. I have been neglecting those duties as of late, but things will hopefully calm down soon. :]