Sunday 2 July 2017

Why Online Friends Are Just As Valuable As Real Life Friends

Why Online Friends Are Just As Valuable As Real Life Friends mental health illness wellness wellbeing depression OCD anxiety help support Mind time to change

Firstly, I wanted to say that I had a massive issue with knowing what to call this post. I hate the term 'real life friends' to describe friends you know, who you interact with in everyday life because it makes friends made online seem illegitimate. If I'm honest, I didn't have many ideas to get around this problem, so it is what it is.

If I said to 11-year-old Nicole, who had just started secondary school and friendship was at the pinnacle of her life that give it six or seven years, 98% of your current friendships were made online, I would have laughed at you. But here we are, in 2017 and that's 100% true. 

Maybe I've just had a string of bad luck when it comes to friendship. Or maybe it's me? Maybe, I can't maintain friendships because I'm not a good friend. Don't be silly, of course, I'm not. There is, in fact, a range of things which do cause friendships to break up or drift apart and that's just a fact of life. This post aims to examine those factors and highlight how online friendships are just as important as ' real life friends'

School, love it or hate it. You are forced together with people who the only things you have in common are your age, your ability in that subject or as you get older, you've picked the same subject. You may be lucky, you may find someone who shares the same weird hobby as you, but for the most of us, we're form friendship groups on the basis of personality and unconsciously, probably on looks too.

You're more likely to be drawn to people who act and dress like yourself. Friendship groups are often formed because you all have the same or similar norms and values. However, a fundamental problem with this is that looks and personality change. Ask any year 11 & they will tell you how much they have changed since year eight. A look through my own school photos will tell you that for nothing. 

Your tweens, teens and early adult years are one of the busiest times of your life for change and development. Hormones and puberty are everywhere. People change. It's not unusual to be fuelled by raging teenage hormones and fall out with your mate Chloe who thought you were copying her because you bought a similar school bag. Like steady on, your get arrested if you don't stop that criminal behaviour now. 

It's not unusual to just drift apart from friends in your school years. People move on. There is nothing out the ordinary about that. Most people's friendship circles are limited when your growing up. Like you probably know people who you go to school with, maybe some odd family friends and if you are part of a club, those guys too. Statistically, you're not going to get to meet a diverse range of people. You all probably grew up in the same area and therefore, have similar norms and Values. But when you go online, you get to meet people from all walks of life. 

As I began to really struggle with my mental health, I didn't know any people in real life who were open about their mental health. So I turned to the virtual world. I started to share my story with OCD and depression. I didn't know what response if any I would get. As I kept sharing, more and more people were telling me that they related to my story and were also experiencing what I was going through. These conversations were where the real friendships were formed. 

I guess in a way, it's like a club. A club that you joined when you were younger and made friends through that way. Expect, this isn't no arts and crafts. This is mental illness, affecting the one in four of us. It's a big club that is pretty bittersweet. On the one hand, I've met and had the pleasure to talk to some amazing people, but we're all here because we struggle with our mental health. Which let's face it, is never very fun. 

But as my counsellor always says, I should try and look on the brighter side of life more often, so that's what I'm going to do. Although it's not under the best circumstances that these friendships have formed, they have helped make a bad situation better. Together we spread awareness and reduce the stigma around mental illness. We ( mostly) are all there for each other because we understand what everyone has been through because we've gone through it ourselves. 

If I'm feeling anxious, down or upset, I can always rely on one of the friends I have made online to be there for me. To offer advice, to cheer me up or just listen to my struggles and concerns. Which is more than what some of the 'friends' I know in real life ever do for me. This is why online friendships have been so much more valuable to me than the 'friends' I know in real life.

Obviously, at times when I need them the most, to be physically there for me. They aren't. When I need a hug or a shoulder to cry on, there at the other end of the country. This is obviously not ideal. Which is why I'm trying even harder this summer to meet up with as many blogging friends as possible and make those 'online friendships' into 'real life friendships.'

I would love to know your opinion on this topic in the comments. Do you value real life or online friendships more? Let me know!  

Thanks for reading, as always X 

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