I sat in the packed stadium filling out a membership card.
It was the Sandi Patty Make Your Praise Glorious tour and she was inviting the kids to join her Friendship Company where they would be matched with a pen-pal.
In the mail I received the information for my pen-pal. She lived in Texas, but later moved to Florida.
We wrote dozens of letters back and forth. We talked about our favorite movies, actors, singers, and just everyday life.
Then in 1994 I boarded a plane to meet her.
I spent a week with her and her family and it was like we’d always known each other. And we had…we had been cultivating our friendship for years through letters.
And we still stay in touch. Not through letters anymore…technology has changed. Now we stay in touch on Facebook.
The argument has been made that Internet friendships are not real friendships. You can’t know who is hiding behind that screen. That person could be anyone. For all you know, they could be a psychopath masquerading as your friend.
They say that Facebook and Twitter friendships are shallow and fake.
Some even go so far as to blame this technology for the breakdown in societal relationships, heightened divorce rate, and overall lack of communication today.
Is it really to blame?
Or has the breakdown in society contributed to people’s choice to take technology – a thing, a resource – and use it as a buffer from meaningful relationships?
Technology is neither good nor bad. It is a resource – and depending on how it is used, it can accomplish either good or bad things, depending on whose hands utilize it.
And Internet friendships are no less real than pen-pal and long-distance relationships were 20 – 30 years ago.
The concept is the same, the tool is updated.
In my post to lonely moms, I talked about my Internet friends. These women have seen me through some of the hardest times recently…and I have been there for them as well.
We have truly bonded, thanks to the wonderful technology of Facebook, Google Hangouts, Skype and Voxer. I use these tools to stay in touch with family and life-long friends overseas.
We use the terms “online friends” and “real-life” friends, but to me they are one and the same. My friends I’ve met over the Internet are no less real-life friends than my life-long friends with hom I continue to stay in touch.
There are six people who benefit from Internet Friendships
1. Stay-at-home and work-at-home moms – These moms often find it hard to leave their homes. If their children are small and still napping, their day revolves around meal times and naptimes. Knowing the value of a consistent schedule, it is often very difficult for them to “hang out” with friends, as inevitably they will need to rush home to put their child to bed or rush home to put dinner on the table. Mom’s Night Outs are also tricky if the mom is nursing, has a husband who works, shifts, or doesn’t have affordable babysitting.
2. Shut-ins – I have met many shut-ins over the past several years who truly depend upon the Internet for interaction with the outside world. Because their world has suddenly shrunk to dimensions of their home and the people they see consist of medical staff and an occasional family member, the Internet provides them friendship, interaction, church, and even shopping. Without the Internet, their life would be very lonely!
3. Caregivers – Caregivers work long, hard hours and rarely ever get out to have fun with their friends. Being able to chat on Facebook, Twitter, or even play interactive online games gives them the outlet to fellowship that they might not otherwise have.
4. Introverts – This one may seem strange to you. Despite what people think, we introverts are not hermits and we’re not hiding. We actually love to hang out…in small groups or one-on-one. But we also need time to decompress. You know what? The Internet is great because we can choose our group size and then take time to walk away when we need it. We promise we’ll not ignore people in the flesh, but the Internet is a great place for us because it gives us that space we crave!
5. People in small towns an the country– Have you ever thought that people in small towns, villages or the country may want to extend their sphere of influence beyond their city limits? When you’ve grown up and lived your whole life in a town with a population of 1,000 or less, making a difference in the world can seem quite daunting. The Internet suddenly becomes a resource to make that happen!
6. Parents with special needs or chronically ill family members – For those caring for family members with chronic illness or special needs, the Internet becomes a wealthy resource for research and support from others who have or are walking that same path. The ability to meet and communicate with others caring for family members with the same needs or illness is invaluable as they are able to compare stories, information, research, and help boost one anothers’ spirits on the long and arduous journey they travel.
Let the cynics say what they will, my life is richer and fuller because a handful of women chose to take a risk on a long-distance friendship.
Don’t let prejudice stand in the way of meeting and building a healthy, thriving, rich friendship with someone over the Internet. You’ll never know where it could lead. And hey! Maybe one day you’ll get to meet in real life and discover that all those miles really didn’t mean a thing…because kindred spirits are kindred spirits, whether your in the same room, same city, same country….or just on the same planet!
This article is part of a multi-part series on Building Healthy Relationships. View the rest of the articles here:
This article was featured at Charisma Magazine’s SpiritLed Woman under the title 5 Signs of a Strong Friendship