Social networking sites, such as Facebook, have significantly changed our means of interaction, and, as a result, how we maintain and make friendships.
For example, last year, 29% of American teenagers reported making over five new friends in online venues1. This is often through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram.
4 Reasons For Making Friends Online
1.Not Everyone is a Social Butterfly
Making friends online is easier for some people because there’s a screen between you and the other person. There’s time to think of what you want to say and you don’t have to worry about what the other person thinks of your appearance. Therefore, it’s a low-risk way of putting yourself out there and in a position to meet new people.
For example, colleges and universities generally offer an orientation for new students shortly before the semester begins. With the emergence of mobile technology and social media, it seems this practice is almost becoming antiquated. Today’s students, being the savvy digital natives they are, will often use online platforms to meet new people even before orientations are held. Higher education institutions should have a website, and app, or at the very least a Facebook page. Through these mediums students can virtually break the ice even before ever setting foot on campus.
2.Offline and Online Worlds are Interwoven
When the internet first emerged in the ‘80s, it was thought that cyberspace was going to be a separate and isolated world, disconnected from reality. This is definitely not the case. For many people, their online lives are an extension of their offline ones.
We often associate online friendships as weaker or less genuine than those offline. But making friends online doesn’t mean they will not turn into genuine friendships. According to an article in the Cyberpsychology journal, a number of people who meet online do eventually meet in offline settings. Their study also showed that while online friendships were rated lower in quality, offline and mixed-mode friendships were equal.
3.It’s Easy to Find People with Common Interests
The internet is an amazing resource because it can put you in contact with interesting, like-minded people. The researchers from the Cyberpsychology journal found that similarity was the largest predictor for the quality of online friendships2.
A lot of higher ed organizations and student groups have Facebook, web or app pages. If students know where to find and interact with clubs and organizations online, this can encourage their involvement with the group offline.This is far less intimidating than joining club or group event where you don’t know a single person.
4.Online Social Venues can Provide Support and a Sense of Belonging
In a study of online friendships by the Pew Research Center, it was found that social media helps people feel more connected to the feelings of their friends1. Social media provides a place where people are able to receive support during challenging times. This is beneficial for students that live away from home to attend a college or university.
Making friends online, and maintaining these connections can essentially form an online emotional safety net. When people encounter struggles they often want to talk about it and feel heard. Having these online friendships provides a safe space where people can discuss how they feel. People may feel more willing to be open and vulnerable with online friends because it feels more anonymous.