Stop Invalidating Online Relationships

Hey guys! Apologies for being so quiet on here for a week or so, spoonie life was really taking it's toll on me. My insomnia was a lot worse than usual, causing me to sleep a lot of my days away and then wake up exhausted as a result of non-restorative sleep, an very stressful symptom of fibromyalgia. I was feeling so drained that I didn't get much of anything done for days, although I did get to see one of my lovely friends from university. We went for a meal together on Sunday and had a brief catch up, as she was over my way for something and wanted to see me before she headed back home. It's such a shame that we don't live close to one another! So one with today's post... 

A couple of weeks ago, I came up with the idea for this post. It was during the time that my internet was annoyingly off for a week and I was having a stressful time not being able to talk to all of my friends or check my social media. I was expressing my feelings of internet withdrawl and lonliness, and well I was faced with many irritating comments about being 'addicted' to the internet and the likes from my family. I was concerned that some of my friends would be worried that they had not heard from me at all for days, and most of my family just didn't seem to understand why I was so affected by having no internet access. 

It got me thinking about all of the times that I've heard people invalidating online relationships, both platonic and romantic, saying judgemental comments about friends made online not being 'real friends' or stereotyping the people who have online friends. It really needs to stop! It's great to have friends outside of the internet, to spend time with and share memories with, however not everyone finds making friends easy and so its wonderful that the internet connects them with like-minded people. I wanted to share this post to get people who have ever judged others for spending a lot of their time on the internet talking to their online friends, to rethink and understand that some of the greatest friendships can be made online. I know for me personally, this is definitely the case. Enjoy reading! 

Stop Invalidating Online Relationships

There are a number of awesome things that the internet has made available to us, from educational resources to news updates to online gaming, and of course the opportunity to talk to lots of different people from all over the World. There are so many positives to this and I wanted to discuss some in this post. 

As a spoonie, a term used by people who have a chronic and/or invisible health condition, it can be difficult to get out of the house or to attend social events and such. Many people are even housebound the majority of the time. For those of us with mental and physical illnesses that can't get out as much as I'd like to, the internet offers a place for us to communicate with fellow spoonies, to chat to people who can really understand what it's like. It's great to be able to share advice and personal experiences with others, and really comforting to connect with people who we can relate to. I know for me that this has been one of the most helpful and catharic things that has helped me through tough times. I have met so many wonderful fellow spoonies, especially amongst the blogging community, and being able to be open about my struggles and chat about them with people who 'get it' has been amazing. 

There are lots of reasons that can make it difficult for people to make friends, especially with people who have shared interests, hobbies and opinions, even more so when what you're into is pretty unique. Some people may live in a remote location or they may not have been able to meet anyone with similar interests to them in their hometown. Others may be very shy or introverted or struggle with social anxiety, making communicating with people face-to-face extremely daunting. 

Online, people can search for blogs/forums/fan pages for any particular interest of theirs and through it connect with people who share their enthusium for whatever it may be. It's fantastic to find fellow hobbists who are into the same things that you are, to share tips and ideas, and meet people who appreciate what you do. The internet was fantastic for me in this regard when I was teenager. I was really interested in learning more about different cultures and languages, and wanted to find penpals to write letters with. I came across websites that allowed me to find other teens overseas who wanted to write letters too, and over 10 years later, I'm still snailmailing with two of my penpals from abroad. As well as having an interest in letter writing, I've been fascinated by postcards for as long as I can remember. I wanted to collect postcards from different countries to learn about all of the beautiful places and traditions there are out there. Via the postcrossing website and instagram, I was able to find a massive network of people who were also into this hobby. I now have a huge collection of postcards and lots of new friends! For people who are trying to learn a new language, being able to chat to people from a country that speaks the language is great too and over the internet, you can make friends whilst also practicing the language :)

Stop Invalidating Online Relationships

Due to the my anxiety disorder, I really struggle with social interaction and find it a real challenge to miggle and chat to people if I go to events and such. This definitely hinders my ability to make new friends outside of the internet. I created this blog as an outlet, to help me focus on other things in my life that made me happy, as I was stuck at home due to my mental health and unable to get out of the house much. Blogging, and connecting with fellow bloggers with internets and hobbies similar to my own has had so many benefits for my anxiety recovery. Although I still have a long way to go, it has helped me open up about my personal struggles and has got me more comfortable conversing with people. As well as through blogging, I've also found lots of likeminded people through tumblr and some of them are now very close friends. They've also had a big influence on my anxiety and I'm so thankful to have met them :) In addition, exchanging video messages via snapchat with my online friends is helping me make steps towards overcoming my telephonophobia (read more about that here).

Something that I have found to be a pro of online friendships is that it can be easier to talk about personal and more sensitive things when you're not face-to-face. Not that you can't find people who you can chat with in person about these kinds of things, but lots of people online are more open because it's not as daunting to talk about certain topics when you can't see the other people. I have found this helpful when I am really struggling with my depression, as talking about the thoughts and feelings that are caused by mental illness can be extremely hard in person. I have online friends who also struggle with their mental health and so I can really open up them and discuss more sensitive things. This has been something thats gotten me through some of my worst days.

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll probably have seen my post last year about being into BDSM. This used to be something that I was uncomfortable sharing with people, due to it being a taboo in society and the fact that I grew up being embarrassed about people finding out what I was into in the bedroom. Over the last couple of years, I have been really trying to work on my confidence and trying to challenge some of my self-image issues. I have been learning to accept myself and my many quirks, and be more unapologetic about who I am. In doing so, I decided it was time to stop allowing societal stigma to make me feel ashamed of something that was a huge part of me, which meant being more open about both my mental health and my sexuality/sexual preferences. It was time to connect with fellow kinksters online, and for the last year or so its been a great journey of self discovery and I have made such awesome friends along the way.  

Stop Invalidating Online Relationships

As my fellow bloggers will understand, there are lots of wonderful advantages to having online friendships. Why not utilise all of the amazing features of the internet, such as being able to connect to so many awesome and interesting people from far and wide? As I've discussed throughout this post, there are loads of reasons why some people find it so much less stressful to socialise online, and that it's not something that should be judged. Internet friends are 'real friends' just as much as the friends you meet at school or work. It doesn't matter how people met or if they have never met face-to-face... all online relationships are just as valid! I have met the most incredible people both online and offline :) It doesn't make a friendship more important because you've hung out in person. My online friends have been there for me in lots of different ways, and with the advancement of modern technology you can interect with online friends through gaming, videochatting, skype calls, etc, so you feel even more connected than ever.

The stigma against people who prefer chatting online needs to stop! It's 2017 guys! A lot of people from older generations who maybe do not understand the internet may be voicing judgemental opinions, when their true feelings come from a place of concern rather than disapproval. It can be hard for people not to worry when they watch shows or read articles about people being victim to a 'catfish' (a person who pretends to be someone they're not) online, so talking to them about who your friends are may help. However, in the majority of cases it's likely that your loved ones online friends have very active social media accounts and there's nothing to worry about. Online relationships really are marvelous and I hope others can relate to what I've said :)

Thankyou for reading!

 

Have you ever heard/experienced stigma about online relationships?
Tell me about it in the comments  

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2 comments:

  1. Online relationships are so important to so many different groups of people! As you mentioned, of course! Especially when you're in a minority of sorts, whether that's race or sexuality or illness or disability. If you simply can't find substantial support (substantial for your personal position) in your immediate area why not look to the internet?

    And then, of course, if you happen to bond over silly things, that's great too. I do think it's extremely important to have relationships beyond the internet, but sometimes you just gotta seek more, and that's okay :)

    Erin | Explore, Refresh

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  2. Two of my best friends i met online - one of which I met for the first time when she was my bridesmaid! I think it's important to have these relationships and nobody should try to belittle that - Christ, my online friends are a million miles better than my so called 'real' friends!!!

    If you are ever feeling lonely though - you can always WhatsApp me. I think you're fabulous! Great, great post!!

    www.estellosaurus.com

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