Featured, Theory & Essay

True Life: My “Twitter Friends” Are My Real Friends Too

teamselfieOne night while scrolling my TL, I came across a meme with the caption “Facebook is for all the people you know but never talk to, and Twitter is where you hang out with the real friends you’ve never met.” Immediately, I focused all my energies into retweeting the shit out of that post. Truer words have never been spoken on my timeline. Having been in New York for just over a year after moving from Boston, and having grown up in Dallas prior to that, I’d gotten accustomed to having numerous work acquaintances and “people that I knew of.” But, with my real friends being in various locations between Texas and Philadelphia, I’d had to get creative in my search for social consistency.

I became a resident of Black Twitter, USA in January of 2009. Five years in, I’ve seen some radical changes in the hood. And by “some radical changes” I mean “White people are moving in.” But, more importantly, I’ve made deeper connections outside of 140-character exchanges. The first “friends from Twitter” I met in real life didn’t happen until 2012 though, and they were already friends of people I knew outside of Twitter, so meeting them for the first time was a bit less intimidating than it would’ve been without that buffer. After sharing ignorant laughs about any number of disrespectful topics, I’d gotten comfortable and forgot about real names, so when they showed up I almost introduced them as “Hey everybody this is @CousinSkeet and @WheresYourMan88!” Not almost, did. To which they were cool and laughed at my drunken mixup, offering their real names to the other guests. Now that I’ve had a few more years at this Twitter thing I’d like to think I already know real names of my core group of Twitter friends, and I at least find out prior to us meeting. As simple as it is, it makes explaining the relationship a lot easier when you can introduce someone as Mike and then follow up with some of the pettiest tweets of theirs you’ve favorited.

But where did this taboo come from? For the most part we’ve crossed the threshold where it’s socially acceptable for a relationship to have started via some form of social media interaction, and for people to be honest about it. I understand the initial reservations — largely stemming from the uncertainty our parents felt when the internet was new and child predators and identity theft were lurking around every click. But now, I offer the same sage advice to those still with reservations as I do to people who scoff at meeting someone in the club: If there aren’t any worthwhile people in attendance…what are you doing there?

This digilife hasn’t been all hashtags and homies though. I’ll never forget experiencing the loss of Michael Jackson together, and in this year alone I’ve lost two Twitter friends to unexpected tragedies. Grieving someone you “know” but have never met is an uncharted territory all its own. It’s very similar to the traditional grieving process but on a punctuated scale, and in addition to the normal feelings, there’s this new type of guilt where you question whether or not your time in mourning was appropriate for the loss. Sometimes you feel it’s too long, other times not long enough. And then of course the bittersweet memories when you stumble across their profile and see their last tweets, or go through your favorites and remember the laughs.

As a full-time New Yorker having had these experiences, it’s with boldness and pride that I tip-out with my Twitter friends here in the city. We’ve bonded on the common grounds of things I genuinely care about, or care about enough at least to rant for 15mins, and whether they stayed in spite of or just happened to miss that segment of the day, they’re here now. I will say it’s always tricky seeing someone’s everyday personality and how they react to real-world situations without an audience, and discovering if someone is real-life funny or just funny in the Tweets, but for the most part I have no major complaints. I’m thankful for my fast-friends because they’ve served a very special purpose in this chapter of my life, and while I wouldn’t compare these newfound relationships to ones I’ve forged through the years and over sour times, I’m not completely shut off from allowing them to grow in tandem.

Bottom line, don’t trust someone singing “no new friends” over a Khaled beat if they get curved by Skylar Diggins at the Espy’s…over an Instagram post. Or something like that.

Ryan Sides

Ryan Sides is a writer and content producer based in New York, but Dallas to the core. His sign is the Krispy Kreme "Hot" light and he enjoys long walks to the refrigerator. Chat him up on Twitter about music, food and being in love with being in love.

  • As someone born and raised mostly in the DSL age pretty much the majority of the people I’ve got to know over my life and have mad an effort to keep in touch with have been people over the internet. There are literally 2 people, non-family members, in my phone that I met in real life. One is from high school and the other is fairly recent. For someone as introverted and as awkward as me it has always been much easier finding people online that I better and more easily vibe with and have things to talk about versus strangers in real life.

  • i haven’t read the post yet, i came to comment because.. this is so real.
    *goes to read the post now*
    *comes back*
    YES. AND MORE YES.
    i’ve written about this before and believe it to be true. twitter CAN be/IS real life. real people tweet. real people meet. (#bars) and like life, is what you make it.
    my biggest loves/supporters of dreams have come to my life via that site – it’s real.
    GREAT post.

    • Epsilonicus

      “real people tweet. real people meet. (#bars) ”

      You should have won best female rapper at the BET awards lol

      • LMFAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
        yes.

        • Ryanmsides

          *Loops “real people tweet. real people meet” to a bounce beat*
          *Uploads to vine*
          *Office chair jig commences*

          • AYE! it needs a catchy hashtag doe..
            #hashtagshimmy? LOL.

  • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

    Heyyyyy Ryan. (behaaave, Cheeks)

    So, anyhoo. This post was SO real. I can definitely relate. A bunch of my friends that started over via Twitter have become some of my closest and BEST friends. As in, I consider them family at this point. A group of us gals decided to all take trips together and in that experience we’ve bonded better than folks I’d known prior and for longer. We still make a point to plan our “[insert city here] takeover” trips even though a lot of us have scattered even further across the country. However, the figurative bond we have is as strong as ever.

    I’m always of the mind that it is never “JUST” Twitter. People forget in the safety of anonymity, that there are REAL people behind these Twitter handles. Based on the relationships via Twitter that I have forged… ones that have literally changed my life… I’ll never forget that.

    • Why are we behaving again? **runs**

      • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

        #fakeinnocence

        • Ryanmsides

          *Waves* #HeyBoos

  • Madame Zenobia

    You have a great point about the uncharted territory of grieving a friend from social media. I lost a friend to gun violence in the early days of social media and people were confused as to why I grieved so hard for someone who I’d only met once. But when you have conversations, share jokes or try to encourage each other in hard moments – does it really matter if you live both live in the same place or are separated by half a country? A friend is a friend, support is support. Maybe even more so on social media since you have to go out of your way to be someone’s friend. You know someone cares if they make the effort to comment, message or DM you when they could have scrolled right on past what you were talking about and gone on about their day.

    Honestly, since I moved away from my hometown of Des Moines, social media has helped me to continue to connect with my friends from home as well as family members who moved out East to build their empire in a truly meaningful way. I loved your article, you’re so on point and I can’t wait to read more from you!

    BTW – I love long walks to the refrigerator too.

  • “But, with my real friends being in various locations between Texas and
    Philadelphia, I’d had to get creative in my search for social
    consistency.”
    Man, this. I’ve had an unfortunate habit of skipping major life markers that acquire friends in the process. I was a loner in college, I left NY at 19, spent the next six years living out of a suitcase, the next two back in NY dealing with family issues, and the seven after that in a relationship with a co-parent. The few friends I had time to make are all in different states and time zones, and my NY circle broke when my relationship did. I’m not a super-social person because I talk to people all day, so I have no clue where I’d be without the virtual wingperson that is social media, and to be honest, sites like these with a strong community that crosses over. Shoot, I know a good dozen people that met their future life-partners via the tweeter and I ain’t mad. I’m procrastinating at the plantation looking at engagement photos right now, lol.

    • Ryanmsides

      Lol @ “Procrastinating at the plantation” I used to say that, just made me a little homesick.

      *EDIT* For home…not the plantation.

  • GemmieBoo

    maaaaaan you aint neva lied!!!

    i have made some great friends off the strength of knowing them virtually first (many thru VSB before Twitter was really a thing). hell the man i met thru VSB/Twitter – and later fell in love with – just moved across the country to work in the same city as me.

    social media *can be* a great place to connect with folks from all over the place. yay internets!

  • h.h.h.

    i’m..really only still on twitter for dj zeeti’s TL.

    i think it’s great that everyone finds BFFs off of twitter, i think i gotta stay at a distance now.

    • you’re on twitter? do i follow you?

      • h.h.h.

        *reviews his twitter feed*

        why yes..yes we follow each other. lol

        • Ryanmsides

          Lmao I recently started over with my twitter but I do this with my IG (let me check what I got posted first)

          PS. Follow me!! @TheRyanSides on twitter/IG I’ll follow you guys back!
          PPS:……don’t judge me for that 2010 inspired PS.

          Ok, bye.

  • Aside from my personal blog, i use my real name and picture for everything. Why? Because this is who i am, a real person with thoughts, feelings and a life. Now i use discretion about what’s out there just as i do in real life, but if you followed me here or twitter ir Facebook you #minuswell say you know me. The internet isn’t some illusory presence, behind every keyboard sits a human being, one you can meet, develop a friendship with, hell fall in love with. Communication is what connects us no matter the medium

  • Moderation? Why you gotta be so ruuuude, don’t you know I’m human too

  • miss t-lee

    This is so true, I consider my “twitter friends/online friends” my real friends.
    I’ve met so many awesome people, that I would not have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise, and for that I’ll be forever grateful for social media in its various forms.

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