Almost two years ago, on a random Harry Potter fandom group on Facebook, I came across some wonderful people— Anshul, Ambika (Amps), Apoorv, Akshit and Kriti. (I have mentioned them in an earlier post named ‘Internet Buddies‘, as well). All these people live in different parts of the country, and due to other priorities, we couldn’t really catch the next flight to meet each other. We have all been pretty close friends ever since. On most days, I can be found updating these people about what’s going on in my life, and they do the same. Due to the geographical and cultural differences, we have come to learn a lot of wonderful things about each other, the places we live in, and our cultures and traditions. We are what you would call an extremely close-knit, but culturally diverse group of friends and I have always been proud of that.
While Mum and Dad initially had their doubts about me socializing with people online instead of going out and meeting “real people,” they eventually came to accept my group of online friends, a group that we so fondly call “The Takedown Squad (TTS)” because it was originally formed to ward off cyber bullies and creeps. And like most other groups of online friends, we would plan to meet, but nothing really ever worked out, until recently.
When Kriti told me that she and her friend from college, Suraj (who is now one of my close friends, too) would be visiting me in Mumbai and staying over for the weekend, I was too excited to put this in words. I hadn’t done anything like it before. And although I had previously met Kriti and Suraj in person on a trip to Hyderabad, spending a few hours in a cafe and laughing over milkshakes, and spending an entire weekend together are two very different things for people who communicate over phone calls, messenger apps and social media.
When the day finally came, we decided to go around the city, do the normal touristy things, eat wonderful street-food etc. But we had to take an impromptu detour to meet Anshul, another TTS member who happens to live in Mumbai as well. (You’d think we would have met in the two years that we’ve known each other, but unfortunately that hadn’t happened.) We spent a few wonderful hours catching up at the amazing Prithvi Cafe in Juhu. The best part? It did not feel weird even for a second. It felt like catching up with people I’ve known forever. And inspite of the detour, we managed to do what we had originally planned for the day.
Early next morning, we went trekking in the nearby Yeoor Hills. On our trek, we shared stories and incidents from our childhood, had deep conversations, laughed, climbed steep rocks, “saved” each other from nearly tripping over the said rocks and falling to our deaths (yes, I’m exaggerating), got bitten by red ants, and kicked ash and dust in spots abandoned after the slash-and-burn agriculture. The goal was simple— we just wanted to eat Vada Pav after the trek.
There are a few things I learnt from spending my weekend with friends I had met online. Firstly, it’s not going to feel awkward, you’re going to have the time of your lives, instead. You already know a lot about each other from talking to each other all day long. Which brings me to the second point: you will not run out of topics to talk about. There is always going to be more and more that you’d want to share. You might even end up talking till late in the night, instead of sleeping as you should be. Thirdly, you’re going to learn a lot more about each other than you think. Lastly, you’re not going to want to let them go back. It’s going to get a lot more emotional than expected.
People believe that being friends with people you have met online is unsafe. I, however, have always firmly believed that friends are friends, regardless of how you first came across each other. Go out, meet new people, make new friends online, talk to them, try to meet them in person and get to know them better. Be spontaneous. You’re going to learn so many new things from the people you meet. You’re going to make connections that would probably end up lasting a lifetime.
Do you have online friends you want to go on adventures with? Spread the love and let them know that they matter a lot to you. Let me know what you think in the comments below. You can also contact me on my social media, links to which are on my Home page and given below. I’d love to hear from you.