Online Friendships

Over the summer, I joined the app Periscope, a love streaming app purchased by Twitter. While scrolling through the different live-streams from people all over the world, I came across a Catholic seminarian up north near Seattle. I joined the stream to see people asking questions about the Church and asking for prayer requests. It was strange as to why these people felt comfortable practically pouring their hearts out over this app on the Internet. It was interesting, as it was my first and now last time making “Internet friends.”

In high school, I remember having friends who were part of “fandoms” for different bands. They would interact over Twitter or Instagram with other like-minded individuals. I always considered this concept unique, but never doubted the authenticity of these Internet-formed friendships. Of course, there are online dating websites, but being the doubtful person I am, I prefer my “real-life friends.” Well, this was until I came across the seminarian’s Periscope.

The first few Periscope’s of the seminarian’s I watched, I did not add any comments. I read through other viewer’s comments as they ripped apart the seminarian by constantly asking questions about his stance on gay marriage or about exorcisms. Eventually, I joined in on the conversation. There were always around 30 people watching and commenting over the live-stream. I “told” the seminarian that I was also Catholic, and we chatted about the saints, controversy within the Church and thoughts about The Mass parts.

I joined and began noticing the regulars each time the seminarian went live on Periscope. We got to know each other as well as you could without meeting each other face-to-face. I befriended a girl who was around the same age as me and who claimed she studied journalism in college. We instantly connected and bonded over similar interests and exchanged social media accounts. Because she was pretty active on social media and had followers, I never questioned if she was fake.

This “friendship” lasted about five months before I became suspicious. After a group of us invited her to join our Skype chat, she never joined. Though I still talked to her over the next few days, I noticed comments or posts that did not make sense. To make a long story short, she or he was not who they said they were. Her profile picture was one of a foreign celebrity, and I am assuming she used a different app to upload pictures to Snapchat. The person also made multiple accounts and posed as several different people in the chat.

The entire situation was strange and put things into perspective for me. The Internet can be a scary place, but it can also be a place to bring people together. I still consider the seminarian and a few others on the chat friends, but I quickly learned to not release personal information or trust people over the Internet. While I have seen other online friendships and even online relationships thrive, they are not for me. The seminarian and I never figured out who this girl really was, or if she was even a girl. We both tried to contact her but had no luck.

At first, it bothered me not knowing who was on the other side considering I thought this person was legit. In the end, I learned my lesson. I would not completely dismiss the idea of internet friends, but from the one experience I had, it did not work out. There are good and bad people in everything, and knowing whoever was on the other side knows what city I live in and what university I go to leaves me with an unsettling feeling. Whatever the other person’ intentions were, the situation was enough for me to never want to make Internet friends again. In the world we live in today, you can never be too safe or take the extra measure to see if someone over the Internet is real.

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