The internet has greatly expanded our ability to communicate with family and friends, no matter how near or far. Whether you're communicating through video games, social networking, online chat rooms, or the various other ways we're able to connect via the internet, we have the ability to form new bonds or strengthen existing ones. While on the surface there may not appear to be differences, it's important to keep in mind that there are distinctions to be made when it comes to chatting with strangers online versus chatting with friends. If you were chatting with strangers online, you would be building new relationships with seemingly bodiless figures, whereas you will most likely be having fun or catching up with your friends over these same platforms. While it is true that chatting with strangers does not have the same effect as chatting with friends, there is something to be gained from both. It's generally fair to say that for those who are looking to connect, any form of communication is important and meaningful. We want to remember that there are benefits and drawbacks to both, and if possible, we want to find a healthy balance that works best for us.
Chatting With Strangers Online
As a general rule, one should always be aware of the dangers in giving too much personal information away on the internet. Luckily, if identity is an issue, there are quite a few sites that give you the option to chat anonymously. Even though the world wide web has done wonders for people across the world, it also has an inherent flaw that allows people to hide parts of themselves that they would not be able to if you got to know them "in real life." People are able to hide behind their screens, which typically leads them to feel more empowered to be unkind should the situation arise. While we'd like to think that those who are communicating with us have the same intentions and desires, that is unfortunately not always the case. Almost daily, we hear of people young and old being bullied or scammed on the internet. We can potentially avoid this by recognizing that while we want to be fully open with people, we should trust our intuition and not give more information that we feel comfortable with. Despite these potential downfalls, there is more good out there than bad. Now that we've discussed the potential drawbacks, let's take a look at the positives.
First, as humans, we are social creatures. At one time or another, we have all longed for a connection whether it be familial, romantic, or just a platonic friendship. At various times in our life, we may crave different forms of connection causing us to seek friendships with people online. Sometimes, but not always, we turn to the internet to chat with strangers because we feel less likely to be judged. When you present to someone in person, we can often worry about how our physical appearance and behavior/mannerisms. It often feels safer to build connections without the obstacles of judgment which helps build your self-worth.
Once we're able to connect with those online, it can also make it easier to slowly start to build up to connecting with people in person. When we're speaking to a stranger who makes us feel heard and validated, it can give us hope that there are others in our everyday lives who can also be as supportive. It can be easy to feel so uninhibited online that you no longer want to seek a more physical, in-person connection with someone. If you notice that starts to happen, it helps to take a step back and think about whether you are chatting with strangers in an attempt to avoid the reasons why you struggle to connect in person.
Another benefit is that often others who are detached from a situation can see things from a different perspective. For example, if you are having an argument with your partner and you talk to your friends about it, because they care about you and are loyal, they might give you advice that is skewed because of their inability to look at situations and people objectively.
Specialized chat rooms and meetup sites have been really instrumental in allowing people with varied interests to find other people with said interests. Living in a small town and having a hobby or interests that are considered non-traditional, for example, might limit the possibilities of connecting in person. You know from the beginning that the person you are speaking to is there for the same reason as you are. Being able to form that kind of connection, even with a stranger, can be really valuable. If you find that you are uncomfortable with the conversation, it's also much easier to exit with a click versus having to leave an in-person conversation.
Chatting With Friends Online
Keeping a friendship alive can be difficult to do, especially as we get older. Priorities change, life gets busy, and time seems to be more of a luxury. Because of this, talking to friends online can be a really convenient option. We don't have to worry about the stress of leaving our house, yet we can still process our emotions in a healthy way via text, voice, or video options. While chatting with friends online can be really appealing, we should think about the benefits that come with meeting these friends face to face. When we're online, we can't read body language, we miss the physical connection (like a hug), and it can further isolate us if all of our interactions are limited to online chatting. The longer we go without face-to-face interaction, the more difficult it can be to find the motivation to spend time with friends over coffee or meet up for a movie.
Limited time may not allow for weekly meetups with your friends, but it's important to keep up with our social skills. Many people report that they communicate better in written form which makes online chatting with friends more appealing. Many of us have to verbally interact with others on a daily basis, which can be draining. At the end of the day, you might have a lot on your mind but don't have the energy to leave the home. This is one of the biggest advantages of talking to friends online. If your friends are equally as drained, the convenience of typing back and forth is mutually beneficial.
Friends who know you intimately can often have more serious conversations than you might with a stranger. While small talk is sometimes what you're craving, you also want to know that the person you're talking to is a trusted confidante who understands you as a person. That can take time to build with a stranger. Trust is one of the most important elements in any relationship, so if you're someone who takes time to warm up to new people, you might want to "stay close to home" rather than seek connections from strangers. Since friendships can take a lot of time to form, it's a good idea to consider the importance of keeping these bonds strong instead of focusing your attention elsewhere.
Reaching Out To A Therapist Online
Recent research shows that online therapy can help those with complex feelings arising out of a lack of social connection. In a study published in Behavior Therapy—a peer-reviewed academic journal—researchers examined the effects of online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on loneliness. Treatment consisted of an 8-week CBT program that sought to measure feelings of isolation, depression, social anxiety, worry, and similar concerns. Post-treatment, participants reported a decrease in loneliness, in addition to an increase in overall quality of life. These results are consistent with those of a number of similar studies on the effects of online CBT when treating a wide array of mental health issues. Cognitive-behavioral therapy works by helping individuals reframe negative thought processes underlying unwanted emotions or behaviors, such as those related to loneliness.
As outlined above, if you are seeking a connection or are looking to work through your emotions, online therapy is a valuable resource. With BetterHelp, you can reach out to your therapist through live chat, messaging, voice call, or videoconferencing. Instead of having to wait until your sessions to discuss certain concerns, you’ll be able to connect with your therapist outside of appointments. With the journal feature, you’ll be able to jot down your emotions at any time, and your therapist will respond when they are able. A qualified expert will be able to provide support when you are feeling lonely or looking to others for happiness. Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from those who have sought help in the past.
“I have been working with Christal since about April or May. She has become a friend, helpful in some of my most lonely times. I am thankful for the time I have had with her counseling.”
“She listens to me and offers suggestions. I feel like she understands my situation dealing with loneliness and hurt.”
Both options can produce positive results in your level of happiness since everyone needs socialization of some kind. If you have strong friendships or even friendships that you're looking to improve, it could be a good idea to continue to speak to these people while also being aware that being friends with someone doesn't always mean that you'll connect on all levels. If you find that you are sharing with people who might not understand what you're going through, chatting with strangers online might be a good route to take. What's most important is being able to have an outlet for your emotions.