The online world now provides us with ways to shop, run a business, and even meet new people. And while you can’t substitute face-to-face interaction with your friends for likes and comments on a site like Facebook, our online pals can be very beneficial to our emotional well being. This is especially true if you’re using your online friends as a way to fill the needs that offline friends cannot provide, like someone to chat with on off hours or as a way to keep in touch when your friends move away.
Online pals can be a source of feedback and support in a different way than your real-life friends can.
Online Friends Give Support
Sometimes we’re just more comfortable sharing details of our life with the people we know only in the virtual world. If that’s the case, online friends can be a wealth of support during the rough times in life. Your online friends are probably there to cheer you on when you have just lost your job or are dealing with a health concern, for example.
What’s more, if you have some unique concerns, online friends from a specialized group can provide empathy from their own first-hand knowledge of what you’re going through. Sometimes our offline friends can tell us they are sorry we are dealing with a certain problem (divorce, loss of job, grieving the loss of a loved one), but they don’t know what we are feeling personally. Having someone that has been through it all before can help you feel more understood.
However, use your online friends as the added support you need, rather than as a substitute from your offline pals. While you might be tempted to tell your offline pal “you just don’t understand,” allow them to give you the support in the way they can. Then, seek out other in-person groups where you can meet others who share your concerns or issues. This two-tired approach to creating a tight inner circle will give you support in a variety of ways, and you’re more likely to feel better about the negative circumstances in your life.
Use Online Friends to Give You Confidence to Trust Offline Pals
People tend to share things with their online friends that may be embarrassing to admit to those they know in real life. But part of building a great friendship is being real with people, so if you’re purposely hiding from your offline friends, take a cue from your online pals and slowly share the details of your life with the people you know.
One recent study said that 57% of teens have met new friends online through things like social media and playing online games. Most of these friendships stayed online, and they could very well have helped the teens build confidence to interact more fully with people in real life. In-person friendships are still superior when it comes to our overall emotional and physical health, but online friendships can be a positive force in building solid friendships in real life.
For example, while your online friends can send an email when you’re sick, an offline friend can look you in the eye, tell you in person that it’s going to be okay, and give you a hug. These are irreplaceable when it comes to healing and moving forward.
Reach Out to Online Folks When In-Person Communication is Difficult
When you’re up in the middle of the night worrying about bills or your teenager, you might be tempted to call your best friend up for a chat, but do that once too often and you’ll put a strain on your relationship. That’s where online friends come in. You can reach out to them anytime of the day or night, even when they aren’t immediately available. Just being able to pour your heart out in an email or send them an instant message will give you the emotional boost you need.