Editor's Note: given the subject, our incredibly talented visual designers Catarina Gomes and Inês Laureano were challenged with co-creating the artwork for this blog piece with an AI. You can see the results of that digital collaboration above. And then read all about digital relationships below:

I love my online friends. Spending time with them is the best part of my day. Even if it’s us just sitting silently doing our own things, it’s always enriching. While our proximity to each other is limited by a screen, I consider these people integral to my life.

Even if I never met them in person.

This isn’t uncommon in the age of the internet, but it’s still a new trend. To have friends who seem to only exist in one's computer. Every time I tell people that I’m going on a trip to meet some of these friends in September I get worried glances and tons of questions.

Is it safe?

What if they aren’t who they pretend to be?

I do understand this line of questions, but find it wild that it only comes from folks older than 40. To them the danger of the internet is always present. They were introduced to it in a time where it was the easiest to hide your identity. But that’s not the case anymore.

I personally found my friends on TikTok, with their faces on full display. We've since played hundreds of hours of Dungeons & Dragons together and hung out on countless Discord calls. I know these people well and truly. And it makes sense that those who don’t have those kinds of relationships might be wary of them.

But for me, these relationships are just the best.

There are of course drawbacks to my friends “living entirely in my computer”

We can’t go out together. So instead of being out and about on the weekends I find myself parked in front of my computer being an unintentional digital hermit. Sometimes, as fueling as it is to hang out with my friends, it can be a bit lonely.

Because, while I love my friends so dearly, it’s still just me sitting in a room by myself.

What I struggle with most is what to do when there’s an in-person event I want to go to. If there’s an art show or festival I want to go to, my friends can’t come. And of course I try to go with my friend who does live in the area, but if our schedules don’t line up I’m out of luck.

I would have to go by myself which can be fun.
But it also is a painful reminder that my friends aren’t here.

I find myself scrolling through social media and seeing friends together doing things

Their physical proximity to each other hurts a little bit. I’m able to remind myself that one day soon my friends and I will all meet up in person, and it’s going to be great, but that doesn’t change the hurt now.

But even amidst feeling sorry for myself I feel incredibly lucky to have these people in my life. We talk all the time even if it’s just over a chat box. We tell each other about our day, ask for advice, and comfort each other. Sure we can’t hug, but we find ways around that and offer all the virtual comfort we can.

At the end of the day I know I can always hop online and be surrounded by a community who would drop everything to rally around me.

That’s what is so beautiful about online friendships

Someone is pretty much always online. We live in different time zones and in different countries so no matter what time of day or night it is, someone will almost always be awake and ready to talk.

That’s something people rarely think about when considering digital friendships. Your friends can be there even when they aren’t.

I know during the pandemic a lot of our friendships moved from in person to online. And some stayed that way. Some people moved, or avoided crowds, or had a major life development that makes it hard for them to get out often. I have friends who moved across the country. My two best friends, my college roommate and her husband, who I used to see every day, are hundreds of miles away. And of course we keep in touch online. But I wish we all still shared a physical space.

Because of the distance, I’m more thankful for the internet than I ever have been. It’s good to know that I will always have them around even if it’s just through my phone.

At the end of the day that’s the most beautiful part about online friendships

There is always still room for connection. No matter how lonely I get, or how much I wish I could hug my online friends, we still love each other and can support each other because of technology.

I wouldn’t trade my digital friendships for the world. My friends have been there when I needed them most. And I’ve gotten to be there for them in turn.

It’s not perfect.
And it’s not always easy.
But it’s worth it.

If you are someone who is in a digital relationship of any kind, know you’re not alone. We’re all going through it with you.

The highs and the lows.
The good times and the bad.

I asked my online friends if they had any advice they would want to share, and my friend Diana said it best:

"Online relationships can lack some of the causal interactions that help cement IRL ones, so you might need to put in a little more effort sometimes. Just a casual meme or message, even when you don't really have anything to say, can show your friends that you're still thinking of them and value their friendship!"

When it comes to online friends it really is the little things that make the world of difference. My advice is to not doom scroll social media looking at happy friend groups.

If you find yourself doing that, send a message to your online friends, even if it’s something silly.

You’re all in it together, even if together just means online.

About The Other Half 👇

Thanks for reading this! FYI, the Other Half is brought to you by Bond Touch: the brand that has been helping build healthier and happier relationships through emotional wearables since 2017. Connecting over 1 million people globally to date so far!

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Mara Franzen