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Are Internet Friends Legitimate?

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Jacob Jackson

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Due to the giant wave of social media platforms, online multiplayer video gaming, and other cyber-catalysts for globalization, the concept of “internet friends” is prevalent in today’s society. This, paired with the somewhat recent emergence on online dating, raises an important question: can you truly be friends/have a one-to-one relationship with someone you haven’t physically met? Some might say that you never know someone until you actually meet them in person, while others believe that video chat services, such as Skype, can supplement this.

I, myself, have a few friends that I’ve encountered through various video games, apps, websites, etcetera, and I honestly believe that the friendships are genuine. At one point, the person I considered my “best friend” lived over six hours away from me in Texas. We actually flew to each other’s houses on two separate occasions, and he was the same exact person I encountered through the screen on my computer and they keyboard of my cellphone.

On the other side of the coin, there have been a number of incidents where online meet ups turn into murder cases. In February of 2016, thirteen year old Nicole Lovell of Blacksburg, Virginia was murdered by two Virginia Tech students she met on a Facebook forum called “Teen Dating and Flirting”. Although the case isn’t completely solved as of the writing of this, it seems that Lovell snuck out of her house one night to visit eighteen year old David Eisenhower, who is believed to have later killed her with his nineteen year old counterpart, Natalie Keepers. It is believed that his motive for killing her was the fact that Lovell was planning to make their relationship public, which would put Eisenhower in possible legal trouble for dating a minor.

So, maybe online friends can work out as long as there isn’t a large age difference? Of course, there are quite a few other factors that are involved: how long have you known them? Are you just texting them, or have you seen them live on video chat? How far away do they live? Fortunately, I had (and took) the opportunity to investigate this question for myself.

Meet my twenty-four year old friend Markus.

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Markus and I met online, over the summer of 2015, and we both agree that we’ve become really good friends throughout that time period. For the last few months we’d been debating whether or not meeting up would be a possibility, or even a good idea for that matter. After debating the topic with my parents (which took about two months of convincing to finally sway them) and hearing plenty of warnings from both my parents and friends about how how I was probably going to be murdered, the trip became a reality. I hopped onto a plane at 6 a.m and arrived in Rhode Island thinking “Best case scenario: I meet a friend that I’ll have for life. Worst case scenario: I become a murder statistic.”

As I was sitting on the plane, soaring to Rhode Island, I  was actually way less nervous that most people probably (and reasonably) would be. I was confident that he was the person he said he was, considering we talked on Skype multiple times a week and texted almost every day. So it goes without saying that I wasn’t too surprised when I say the same guy I’d been talking to for almost a year at the airport; wearing flip flops and shorts in 40° weather. We instantly stated cracking jokes about how both of us could secretly be axe murderers, plotting complex plans to kill the other during the visit. Despite how seemingly morbid that might sound, it became a running joke throughout my stay.

I’d easily consider this one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. Rhode Island, although it’s quite small, is a fun, little place to hang out. I also experienced things that we don’t really have in Oklahoma; my favorite of these being Korean BBQ, which I nearly ate my own weight in because it was so good. I also visited a local restaurant called Crazy Burger, which was featured on Guy Fieri’s television show: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It was also cool to finally meet all of the people that Markus has mentioned, and to put faces to names. Meeting his family went just as well, and his mom was especially delighted that I wasn’t “catfishing” her son.

So, does this mean that you should just go meet anyone you meet online? Absolutely not. What this does mean though, is that not everyone on the internet, contrary to popular belief, is secretly a predator set on killing you. I think in any situation like this you should use your best judgement to determine whether or not you feel safe doing so. The main thing I want to stress though is to MAKE SURE YOU SKYPE, FACETIME, OR USE ANOTHER MEANS OF VIDEO CHAT TO TALK TO THEM! That’s one of the best and easiest ways to tell if you’re being catfished or not. If they try to make excuses not to, they’re most likely an impostor.

*Markus is a fictitious name created, at the request of my friend, to ensure his personal privacy 

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Jacob Jackson, SPN TV Reporter

Hi. My name is Jacob Jackson, and this is my first official year being a member of SPN. I'm a senior at Bixby High School and I did guest podcasting work...

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