The Company Of Web Strangers

Adrien Chen didn’t make a friend on Facebook. He met his best friend in a random chat room. So why does society still somehow distrust friendships that start with virtual strangers? Wasn’t that, at one point, the entire promise of the web? For some, of course, serendipity never ended. It’s just beleaguered by Zuckerberg’s “social network”:

If you look to online communities outside of Facebook, strangers are forging real and complex friendships, despite the complaints of op-ed writers. Even today, I’ve met some of my best friends on Twitter, which is infinitely better at connecting strangers than Facebook. Unlike the almost gothic obsession of Catfish’s online lovers, these friendships aren’t exclusively online—we meet up sometimes to talk about the Internet in real life. They are not carried out in a delusional swoon, or by trivial status updates.

These are not brilliant Wordsworth-and-Coleridge type soul-meldings, but they are not some shadow of a “real” friendship. Internet friendship yields a connection that is selfconsciously pointless and pointed at the same time: Out of all of the millions of bullshitters on the World Wide Web, we somehow found each other, liked each other enough to bullshit together, and built our own Fortress of Bullshit. The majority of my interactions with online friends is perpetuating some injoke so arcane that nobody remembers how it started or what it actually means. Perhaps that proves the op-ed writers’ point, but this has been the pattern of my friendships since long before I first logged onto AOL, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.