I have been friends with someone for 3 years and he and I have never met. Now, before you get nervous, let me just preface everything by saying he is indeed a real person. He exists in real life. He is a friend of a friend, there is no strange catfish situation to be had here.
For the sake of this story and to protect this person, this pen pal shall heretofore be referred to as Ace. Now Ace lives in London. I live in Los Angeles. How do these two people with 5437 miles between them come to cross paths you ask? Snapchat. I know I might as well have “millennial” tattooed across my forehead, but that is beside the point.
It all started like this. I was hanging out with my best friend one day at my house. For the purpose of this story, let's call my best friend Tina. For whatever reason, I broke out into song. I was putting on the best version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that I could. Tina posted the clip to her Snapchat story, as you do when your best friend is being extra. She found the whole thing equal parts endearing and hilarious.
Tina met Ace the previous summer when her family had spent the summer in London (hence how I know he’s a real person). They became good friends. Bim bam boom, they become Snapchat buddies and he sees the clip of me singing. I truly think it was the off-key finish that really sealed the deal, but he just wanted to get to know me.
Eventually Ace pries my snap info from Tina and that begins the story of a beautiful 3-year friendship.
I have to tell you, I am usually not one to entertain these social media connections. My anti-social nature rejects the idea altogether but for whatever reason, I said, “What the hell, what have I got to lose, there’s quite literally an ocean between us.” As I got to know him I realized we have very similar viewpoints of the world. Our energies just worked. On some level, it felt very easy to get to know him. There was no pressure.
I recognize that there is a certain level of detachment that comes with this long-distance friendship. The time difference, our daily schedules, and mere reliance on phone access dictated how much time we spent “together”. Weirdly enough the detachment in the situation made it so that we were way more comfortable getting to know each other. We shared more deeply with one another much more quickly because we didn’t put pressure on ourselves. We spoke to each other because we wanted to not because we felt like we had to.
However, I was very conscious of the fact that at least a piece of our budding friendship was manufactured. While the relationship we were forming felt very organic, for all I knew he could have been lying through his teeth. You can always portray yourself in the best light when it comes to social media platforms. While your face is shining in the light, the shadows fall behind you and who knows what has yet to be revealed in the shadows.
Any photos exchanged are always taken at the best angles, with decent lighting, maybe even a filter or two. Tone doesn’t always get portrayed through a text correctly. You lose all elements of non-verbal communication like body language and facial expressions to add context to a conversation.
After all that the only thing you can do is trust. Trusting that you are a good judge of character takes you farther than you think in life. I just try it all in stride and am happy I get to know Ace, whatever version of him I get to know.
Some people might complain that social media dulls the essence of communication and steals the emotion out of relationships. I argue that in this instance, social media has widened my scope of communication skills. Without that little white ghost, I probably would have gone my whole life without ever knowing of Ace and the fact that he enjoys German Metal music, despite the fact he can’t speak German. Weird.
Until next time readers…