Online friendships are relatively new to me; they’re something I discovered in my twenties. When I was Emma’s age social media was still quite new and Facebook was pretty much the only going option. Given that Facebook’s a closed network for people you already know, my ‘online relationships’ as a sixteen year old girl had one clear purpose: speaking to boys I’d seen, but wasn’t brave enough to look in the eye IRL. My friendships were IRL and my (attempted) romantic relationships were formed under the glare of my phone screen.
This meant when I was growing up, my friendships were limited to who was at school. I was basically the only person I knew who was a dedicated emo (haha) or was really ‘into’ books. Some of my friends like reading, but not like I did. I’m sure my friend who’s into fashion felt the same, and my friend who’s into science, and my friend who’s into languages, and my friend who’s into ‘cool’ music. (She must have been so exasperated by my loyal and unwavering love of Tay-Tay.) Later in life I discovered Twitter and it completely opened up my world. Suddenly I had access to all these people who were into the same thing as me.
When I talk to a lot of my ‘offline’ friends about what I write, and what I read, I’m met with a lot of scepticism. ‘But don’t
you want to write an adult book?’ ‘So you all sit around talking about books for…teenagers?’ They respect that I’m a published author and are happy for me, but beyond that we don’t really go into detail. There are a lot of people I would count as good friends – that I’ve known for a number of years – who haven’t even read my book, which, when I think about the amount of support for my writing that I get from ‘offline’ friends, some of whom I’ve never met, is actually pretty weird.
It will be different for everyone, (I know for some people the gap between their ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends is practically non-existent), but for me, my ‘online’ and ‘offline’ friends are quite disparate. I have a supportive group of people who I regularly contact online, and may or may not meet up with in person. We have a shared interest and through that, I’ve begun to develop some really strong friendships on a foundation of having something in common. My IRL friends and I have a history that no one can replace, maybe a shared sense of humour due to growing up together, I’d go as far to say we’ve formed each other’s personalities…but in many ways we have less in common. I’ve come to really appreciate that divide; I enjoy that each group has different versions of me. It’s sometimes a relief that my ‘offline’ friends couldn’t care less what I do or what I’m interested in; I’ll
always just be ‘Chloe who threw up in the dog basket’ to them. On the flip side, I like what I get from my ‘online’ friends that I sometimes can’t get from my ‘offline’ ones.
Although the groups mean different things to me, I don’t see either as any less valuable than the other. I’m happy to see society’s scepticism towards the concept of meeting friends online is changing, just like meeting a partner on Tinder is now considered normal. This will be even more true for teenagers, like Emma, who have grown up with this world of possibilities open to them. When I started writing Friendship Fails of Emma Nash I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if I was a teenager now, and I could easily find people anywhere in the world with shared interests? Wouldn’t it be amazing if I was a lonely sixteen-year-old girl and could discover new friendships with the click of a button? Obviously, Emma being Emma, most of her attempts at making friends go disastrously wrong before they’ve even started, but I’ve had so much fun taking Emma through a journey of finding new friendships – both online and off.