finding meaningful friendships online

Sometimes, I think how the people that we come across in different phases of our life simply fade away. And whether we meet them or get in touch with them again, whether online or in the real world, is dictated (apart from happenstance) by an important factor: like-mindedness.  

Most of the friendships and relationships that we forge are due to closeness and proximity. Whether it be our high school years, college, or the different jobs that we work in, we associate with people around us. In other words, we form bonds with a majority of people in our lives via convenience and the only common thing that we share with them is spending time in a certain location.

We may think we have “friends” around us, but the truth of the matter is that we hardly have anything in common with them. There is no like-mindedness, there is no alignment. The core values and beliefs, which are the crucial components of the foundation of any meaningful relationship, don’t match up. Of course, we may find some like-minded people over the years in the real world, but the probability of them sticking around is low.

That’s where the Internet comes in, and if used well, it can be our lifesaver. 

After designing my life based on minimalism over the past few years, I am more deliberate about my friendships now. Although I made friends via both in-person and online routes previously (Couchsurfing being a significant contributor), at this juncture of time, my most meaningful friendships today are on the Internet.

I know this sounds strange and weird, but if you look at it from a different lens, you will realize that my friendships are not only not limited by geographical boundaries and differences, but they are also driven by values, interests and passions that I share with others. They simply have much more depth and meaning, much better than meeting and interacting with a person in real life who has no commonality with me. 

Online groups, forums and communities have made making like-minded friends all around the globe easier than ever. And it makes sense to utilize these opportunities.

Of course, this does not by any chance negate the significance of friendships and relationships in real life. But it simply stresses on meeting people who have common interests with you, and these days the Internet is a great avenue to do the same. In this way, the foundation of our friendships is built on common values, goals and beliefs, and not on proximity or region.

As Joshua Fields Millburn writes in The Minimalists blog, “Why would I spend significant time with people who don’t share my values? My lifestyle is predicated on certain principles, and thus my relationships must align with my personal standards. Besides, it’s difficult to grow with someone if you’re both growing in opposite directions.” He further adds, “Because of the Internet, however, you and I are no longer limited to proximity. We’re no longer forced to engage in pointless small talk in an effort to uncover a morsel of commonality. We no longer have to hang out with the person in the nearby cubicle outside of work hours. Instead, we can seek out people with similar values.”

We can do some self-introspection and ask ourselves: Are my friendships superficial and shallow, or are they deep and meaningful? Are they based on commonality or convenience? Are my interactions truly worthwhile?

Without meaningful friendships, life can easily become dull, monotonous and unpleasant. But if we choose, we can take charge of our social life, and interact with people who understand and support us, those we can have meaningful conversations with. This is nothing but the modern manifestation of the age-old notion of sympatheia

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or somewhere in the middle like me, you can hang out with your own crowd, anytime and anywhere. Just remember, in this age of the Internet, you are never alone and there are some great friendships waiting for you online.