Online friendships and why they matter

It’s been a horrendous week.   Truly.  I cannot tell you how stressful this week has been.  Monday evening particularly where two things were happening simultaneously that were tipping me over the edge.  One had been bubbling for awhile.  One was a medical emergency.   Phone calls with two completely separate groups of people whilst trying to deal with two stressful events, whilst in the car, doing the school run with four excited fourteen year olds.

Feeding teenagers, jumping back in the car and then being in an ambulance with a poorly person on the way to A and E where I stayed (accompanied by Mr B from 8pm straight from work) until 1.30am.

And then Tuesday morning I woke up to no blog.  None.  Deleted.  By hackers?  By mistake by somebody?  Or for a valid reason that needed addressing.   We didn’t get to the bottom of it until mid afternoon (thanks to the supreme efforts of the company that host it).   I spent six hours thinking that two years of blog had gone.  No of course I haven’t backed it up.  Don’t be silly.   All posts.  All comments.  All subscribers.  Gone.   I felt sick.

Whilst still dealing with the fall out from the two events the day before.   On three hours sleep.

And whilst working and trying to be cheerful when callers said “how are you?” because I knew if I told them the truth I would end up a gibbering wreck.  And knowing that whilst asking that question they were not expecting anything other than “fine, how are you?” and wouldnt be able to handle the truth.   For God sake I could hardly handle the truth.

Thankfully my host company got to the bottom of it and restored it.  But not before I had sat and wept at one point.

Wednesday, 1st May is never a good day for me anyway and it was then that I had it reconfirmed just how amazing friendships made online can be.

I was still dealing with one of the events from Monday, thankfully less stressful but still needing to be dealt with, when the medical emergency happened again.  More frantic phone calls with me standing in the middle of Waitrose before school pick up not knowing what to do or how to cope but having to keep it together and then drive to school.

When I got to school I did what I do in these situations.  I shared on social networks that I was having a really tough time.

People that I have never met sending messages saying “you okay?”  or “here’s a hug”.   People that couldn’t pick me out in a line up but who know about me.  Know that I was wobbling and needed somebody to be there.  Even if “there” was 200 miles away behind a computer screen.

They didn’t want details, they didn’t want me to explain or have to go through it all, or even want me to talk at all.   They just wanted to let me know that they were there for me.

Being stuck in front of a computer for ten hours a day means that it is virtually impossible for me to go out and meet friends, or invite them over.   So online friends have become a lifeline.   Not working in an office or going out socially with huge groups of people who bring other people along means that my options for making friends is limited.   I live alot of my life online these days and so that is where my friendships develop

There still seems to be a real stigma attached to a friend made online.  That it is in someway sleazy.  As though there is less of a friendship, or it can’t be genuine.  Alison Perry wrote about the same thing this week in her post about Twitter friendships the feeling that if you say “oh they are a Twitter friend” or “oh yes, that is somebody I know from blogging” it somehow dilutes the depth of the friendship.  Means it can’t be real.

But for me that is simply not the case.  I now view many of the friends I have made on line as being amongst my inner circle of best buddies.   Annie and Penny for instance, who I went to Ghana with.  Both friends I have made online.  The wedding we went to in February was of a friend I met online when another friend, also made online (who came to Thorpe Park in Mr B’s absence last weekend), introduced us because they needed a bit of property advice.  The people that are there for me at 2am when I Tweet “can’t sleep” or when I am Tweet at 6am on a Monday morning that I am ironing and they offer me a virtual coffee.   Or when I post on Facebook that the world has thrown another curve ball, I get a whole string of comments offering help / support / hugs or advice.

I am going to the two day Britmums Live blog conference again in June.  Not so much for the agenda (which I really should pay attention to since I am one of the speakers!) but because it is a chance to meet these people.  All these amazing people I have been talkign to online for a while will be there in one room.   There will be much laughter, much catching up for real.   And much drinking.

None of this is to say that I don’t have amazing friends out there in the real world, I absolutely do.   My two best friends Jo and Tasha are incredible and I  know I could call either of them at 3am and they would be there for me.   But I can truly say that without the support of so many online friends this week I don’t think I would have got through it.

How about you?  Can online friendships be as good or even better than those made at work or in “the real world”?

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  • Oh T that’s made me blub but in a good way.I’m glad we were able to offer you words of comfort, support and advice x

  • I know just what you mean. I live in a town where I don’t know anyone, have no friends and limited transport links. It’s very rare that I get the chance to go out with my OH, let alone to meet up with people, therefore I turn to the internet to get that much needed social interaction. Sometimes it has been a negative experience, I struggle a lot to fit in but since joining the blogging community, the people I’ve spoken to and formed friendships with, have been a rock of support. It’s so heart warming to know that friendship and support can come from the most unlikely of places. x

  • I have questioned the validity of my online friendships in the past, but sometimes all we need is a virtual hug or to know that someone is thinking of us. The main reason I started blogging was to connect with people, four years later it’s still the main reason x

  • I have made some lovely friends on line, and been lucky enough to meet some of them. Being shy on line friends are a godsend, especially in times of trouble.
    Hope you are feeling better now,

  • Since having my baby, my Twitter friends have been there for me much more than my “real life” friends. I don’t know how I would’ve got through it all without them. Honestly. I’d be a gibbering wreck by now.

    I still get looks when I say “my friend on Twitter” and it makes me feel self-conscious. I find myself questioning our relationships and justifying it – but you know what? Not everyone on the internet is a pervert looking for an unsuspecting person to take advantage of. If I’m on Twitter then there will be plenty of others like me too!

    Great post xx

  • I have discovered that ‘real’ friendships can begin on line, but then they become part of your ‘real’ life, because the friendship was there all along, rock solid. It’s not always easy to find people you identify with, but they emerge sooner or later and, on line, there is more opportunity for this to occur, if nothing else because of the power of numbers. Looking forward to meeting you at the Britmums conf – I’m a Butterfly so no excuses ๐Ÿ˜‰ xx

  • I always say “someone I chat to on Twitter” or “one of my Twitter buddies” when actually, I just want to say “a good friend”.

    Blogging and twitter has been amazing for me since moving last January. I still haven’t made any friends, nor have I met anyone apart from those people I met virtually through, you guessed it, Twitter. I count several people who I have never met as my best friends because I know that they will always be there and will help practically if they can or just be a shoulder to lean on.

  • I have made lots of friends online over the past few years. Some have stayed online, some have crossed over into real life meet ups and proper hugs. They are all real and true friends, and like you my online friends are a window in the world, and a huge support. Wouldn’t be without any of them, and I include you in that! X

  • You are an amazing lady and I feel lucky to have got to know you through the power of online xxx Hope next week is much better ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Great post and very true words. I don’t think it matters where or how you meet someone – true friends will be there for you and that’s all that matters.

    Hope you have a better week.

  • For me there’s no difference between an online and offline friend – a friend is a friend and good ones will always be there.
    Roll on the 18th – Vitamix party baby – you are due some good luck after a particularly awful week x

  • Some of my strongest friendships started online. It’s often the case that you can be less judgemental and more supportive with a person you met online than in real life. Real life can be complicated by judgements, rumour and many other petty complications. But your online persona is straightforward. I am sorry that you have had such a revolting week. May this one be better and brighter. x

  • I’m so so glad of my online friends. Sometimes when you need your best friend they’re not immediately available but there is always someo e online to let you know you’re not alone. Wishing you a better week x

  • One of my closest ‘real life’ friends is someone I wouldn’t have met if not for blogging. We went on a trip together and have remained friends since then. And yes, I also have lots of online friends – people I’ve never met in real life but consider real friends – and others who I’ve met in person since meeting online. Does it really matter where our friends come from as long as they are good ones?

  • Totally agree – I love meeting up with people I have chatted to online or whose blogs I read and it is great when we can all support each other in difficult times. Your week sounds very stressful, hope it has got better and you have a relaxing bank holiday. xxx

  • I’m sorry you had a tough time, I hope things pick up now.
    I struggle with ‘real life’ interactions so for me online friendships are really important, they also lead to meet ups. I do find that people are very quick to judge online friendships though, a lot of the time I get “but you don’t really know them.”

  • Long before I started blogging I had made friends online and met some of them too, nothing sleazy about it all but 10 years ago my DH would say to me “are you mad, meeting up with people you met online!” Since I started blogging I have made many good online friends, that I have grown very fond of, none I have met yet but I’ll hopefully put that right next year.
    When I became a mummy again after 2 decades, I joined a FB group and we are all firm friends now, we meet up from all over the country and they are a godsend to me sometimes!
    Sorry to hear you’re having a rough time and hope things look brighter soon x

  • Absolutely agree! No one other than your blogging/twitter friends will ever understand the value of these friendships. Don’t ever forget that I am just a short breath away from your school pick up…I live on Finch Road! Looking forward to meeting everyone IRL at Britmums ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  • I am so sorry that this week has been so tough on you. Why in life does everything always happen at once? I completely understand what you are saying, just because you meet someone in the virtual world doesn’t mean that the friendship isn’t real x

  • So true. Well written and exactly what I relate to and understand. I love how our online friendships can be as meaninful but different. I get excited to ‘see’ my friends online and I enjoy reaching out to many, laughing with many and learning from many just like RT friends!! Great post, very thought provoking xx