Friends Without Borders

Sofia, my brother Michael, and our mutual friend Tanner at the antique store  the first (and last) time we saw each other in person.

Sofia, my brother Michael, and our mutual friend Tanner at the antique store the first (and last) time we saw each other in person.

Grace Phillips, Staff Writer

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For kids growing up in a world surrounded with technology, most have heard the warning, “Don’t talk to strangers on the internet.” In the wave of the social media take over, ‘internet friends’ have turned into a recent phenomenon. People who have never met or spoken in person are developing deep and meaningful friendships through the internet and social media. Despite the stigma and criticism surrounding online friendships, communication with strangers is not a new concept. In the past, having a pen pal was not uncommon; my third grade class exchanged letters with students from another school for almost a year.

However, for teens involved in online friendships, this stigma is hard to overcome. Predators, catfishers, and creeps are a major deterrent for people pursuing these relationships, but they weren’t enough to stop me and others from meeting some of our best friends.

Freshman year, 2016; an app called UChat become popular for about a week. You could livestream with friends, connect with kids in your high school, and chat anonymously with other teens. Users were given random ‘color-animal’ tag names. Red Dog, Yellow Crab, and Blue Bird for example. These chat rooms were used mostly by weirdo creeps, but after a few tries, I was connected with Pink Penguin. Our conversation started with an exchange of F14 and M16: female, fourteen and male, sixteen. We started talking about random things and had a casual chat. After a little while I realized he wasn’t a creeper or anything. He told me his name was Dillon Benedicto and asked me for mine, which I responded with after some hesitation.

“I thought you were pretty dope,” said Benedicto.

Dillon and his sister at Alcatraz in San Francisco last year.

I learned he was from Long Island, New York and was a junior in high school. We talked through the app for a couple weeks, exchanging some selfies and getting to know each other.

Once we were both sure the other was who they said they were, we switched to iMessage and started texting. We told each other everything and became really good friends. We will have known each other for three years this fall. Currently Benedicto is attending college in Rhode Island.

“I’m a freshman at Johnson and Wales University majoring in Culinary Nutrition and am on track to become a Registered Dietician after graduation. I spend a lot of my free time in the gym, watching movies and studying,” said Benedicto.

I met my other online friend, Sofia Catanzaro, at the beach in 2017.

“We met in Ohio at your summer house. I was going there to spend a week with a friend, and he said we were similar,” said Catanzro.

Catanzaro is from Yonkers, New York and is a junior in high school. She writes poetry, creative pieces, and for her school newspaper. She is also the lead singer in the band Brick Distributor.

She had already been in Vermilion for a week by the time my family got there, and unfortunately it was her last night in town. We hit it off immediately, and realized we had a ton in common.

“I was a very awkward person (more awkward than I am now at least) and I didn’t know what to say to you at first,” said Catanzaro. “But when we started talking and after you showed me your writing and your Pinterest boards, I realized how similar we were.”

After riding our bikes into town for breakfast the next morning and checking out an antique store, Sofia’s parents picked her up to take her back home. We’ve since kept in touch for the last two years. I can say with absolute certainty that Sofia is one of my best friends.

“We are so scarily similar. Even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time, we have almost grown up together. Since we met, you have become one of my most trusted friends and someone I go to whenever I have a problem or just want to talk about my day. We talk about everything from fashion to mental health, movies to poetry,” said Catanzro. “You’re almost like my fairy godmother in that your somewhat detached from my life (you’re not a classmate, a sibling, or real life friend) but are still extremely involved  in it. Sometimes it’s frustrating because I don’t get to interact with you in the same way that I would a regular friend. But, since both of us are writers, communicating through text is easy, and it can even make expressing feelings easier.

As hard as it is not being able to see each other and talk in person, I’m so blessed to have Dillon and Sofia in my life. Use your head when using the internet and don’t be an idiot, but keep an open mind.

 

 

An Interview With Sam Blair Regarding His Seabass

Tell me about yourself

I’m Sam, I’m a junior in high school, I play tennis and I’m a lifeguard. I also play a lot of video games.

Tell me about your friend

His name is Sebastian but he goes by Sebas. He’s a senior in high school and is going to college in the fall. He also plays a lot of video games. He’s born and raised in Florida, but is a Puerto Rican and still has a lot of family in Puerto Rico.

How did you meet your internet friend and through what form of social media?

So, I met Sebas probably about 3, almost 4 years ago now while playing video games. We were on the same team and both were talking on the mic and then sent a friend request and started to play more and more games together. Eventually we became pretty good friends just through the amount of time spent playing video games together.

We’re honestly really tight and I’d consider him one of my best friends even though we’ve never met in real life. Like he’s been with me through more things than most of my friends and that’s what’s up. I remember when Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael hit Florida I was honestly a little worried about what would happen because our parents don’t know each other, like if he died during that I would never really know, I’d just have to assume, and that might be one of the scariest parts about having internet friends, like if something happens it’s not just something you find out. With how good of friends we are I’d hate to lose my boy. He’s honestly a real one. Like we mainly just play video games but I mean we’ll get into some deep stuff every now and then and that’s where it’s at.

Have you ever had any internet friends before?

Not really.

What’s your opinion on people making friends over the internet/social media?

I believe that it’s a pretty dope thing and that nowadays it’s actually really nice to just make more friends than just the people in your hometown and really expand yourself.

What’s it like maintaining a friendship through your phone?

It’s honestly pretty easy especially when you have other means of communication other than just your phone. In my case I had video games that we were able to build a friendship on.

Pros and cons of having online friends?

A big pro is being able to talk to them about anything, and I mean anything, even things that happened in school. Maybe talk about something stupid somebody did, they don’t know them so it doesn’t hurt anyone. Like I could spill some tea to him and he’s not going to tell anyone. Another pro is just having the chance to meet new people, like get friends who like you for you rather than just because they see you everyday. Like my gaming friends are some of the tightest people I know cause they aren’t your friends based on your social status or something like that; they’re your friends because of who you are. Honestly the only con I can think of is like cat fishing or something but if you’re careful it’s pretty obvious. Like when I’m snapchatting Sebas it’s pretty easy to see he’s not some creepy old lady or something.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We’re honestly really tight and I’d consider him one of my best friends even though we’ve never met in real life. He’s been with me through more things than most of my friends and that’s what’s up. I remember when Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Michael hit Florida I was honestly a little worried about what would happen because our parents don’t know each other. If he died during that I would never really know, I’d just have to assume. That might be one of the scariest parts about having internet friends, like if something happens it’s not just something you find out. With how good of friends we are I’d hate to lose my boy. He’s honestly a real one. We mainly just play video games, but I mean we’ll get into some deep stuff every now and then and that’s where it’s at.

Thanks Sam Blair!

About the Writer
Grace Phillips, staff writer

I'm Grace; I'm a junior as well as a swimmer and general dog lover. I like writing sarcastically and dressing funkily. I'm pretty easy to spot in the hallways-...

1 Comment

One Response to “Friends Without Borders”

  1. Sofia on May 22nd, 2019 06:58

    ❤️LoVE UU!!!

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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