Digital relationships were something I was warned about as a kid, but always felt increasingly intrigued by.
I guess you could say it started with Webkinz—the root cause of literally every young adult’s internet addiction. The site was a place that fostered virtual pets, and with them digital relationships. This was the first time the idea of being “friends” with someone gravitated outside personal interactions. My friends in real life all had Webkinz, and I remember calling them and going to their virtual house from the comfort of my own living room. The danger did not really lie in the laziness of this act, but rather in the option of befriending other individuals whom one did not know on a face to face basis.
Regardless of this possibility, the world of Webkinz was pretty safe. If I remember correctly, chat rooms only ran on computer-generated conversations, and “going to someone’s house” revealed nothing about the individual except for perhaps their preference in furniture. Still, my parents were skeptical. I remember other adults feeling the same way as sites like Myspace came and went. Our school even had a policeman come and show us a video of a girl who got abducted due to unwise interactions with someone online that she did not know in person.
Times have changed though, and since apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Discord have been more commonplace, so have digital relationships. I am not saying the internet is a safer place these days, I am just saying maybe it’s not 100% as scary as the older generation makes it out to be. I remember two years ago when I first really got into Aniblogging. I got plugged in with a site called Beneath The Tangles and I connected with a handful of like-minded Christian Otaku’s almost instantly. This was so awesome for me, because there was no one I knew in the real world who shared these same interests. The internet worked as both an outlet and platform for me, and through it, I was able to connect with individuals thousands of miles away who were just like me.
If it weren’t for this technology, I wouldn’t have met some of the brightest, caring, and funniest individuals I know. Let me give you an example. Meet the lovely Teresa Christina. She blogs at otakuinmyveins.wordpress.com, and yes, Teresa is just her pen name. We met a while back when I was on a wild search for others like me who examined anime from a Christian perspective. I came across her site, some guest posts, and even her Twitter handle. After a comment or two and an exchange of follows, we fell off of each other’s radar. That was until the Beneath the Tangles site announced it was launching a Discord channel, and Teresa and I both struck up conversation on the then-new app.
To make a long story short, Teresa and I have fostered a great friendship thanks to the availability of the World Wide Web. Since our initial conversations two years ago, we have co-authored blog posts for each other, connected as pen pals the old fashion way, and even Facetimed on a fairly regular basis. Though we have yet to meet in person (and hopefully will soon), we are both deeply involved in each other’s lives. We swap stories, laugh, cry, and pray together.
Though some might find it strange, I believe digital relationships have the potential to be completely unique and God-glorifying. While there’s certainly value in being wary of others on the opposite end of the screen, I also know the internet provides an endless amount of opportunities to get to know those that are both quite different and similar to ourselves.