matchbook-stories:

realsocialskills:

A friend of mine is being told by their psychologist that they need to sever all their online relationships and learn “real contact” with “real people” to develop their “social skills”. Every time in the past that they tried that it got them bullied which is why they turned to online relationships where they were treated more like a human being. Any advice you can offer for them to say to this psychologist in defense of online relationships?
realsocialskills said:
I guess the first thing I’d say here is that your friend does not need their therapist’s permission to keep their friends. It’s ok to have online friends and take those relationships seriously, even if you have a therapist who treats them as contemptible and imaginary.
Second thing I’d say here is that if you’re in a position to get rid of that therapist, you probably should. Someone who tells you that large aspects of your life aren’t real, and tells you to sever relationships you value, is probably not on your side.
If you’re being forced to see this therapist and don’t have other options, it’s ok to lie.
But yes, friendship is real even if your friends arne’ t in the same room. And it’s not good to break off relationships because someone else thinks they’re imaginary.

matchbook-stories said:

this took me a long time to figure out but online relationships really really really aren’t that different from “real life” ones. I used to buy into the idea that there was a difference because while I’ve made some close friends online, I’ve also had online friends who are people I more just chat with, vaguely keep up with, but not really talk to that much or that deeply. So those ones, the sort of vague ones, they’re less real, right?

NOPE. It didn’t occur to me because I don’t tend to have these kinds of relationships offline, but—people who are more social than me? They have these things called acquaintances. You know, people they might get drinks with on occasion, friends-of-friends, people they chat with if they run into them but don’t really have a deep relationship with. 

IT’S NORMAL TO HAVE ACQUAINTANCES. IT’S NORMAL TO HAVE CLOSE FRIENDS AND ALSO FRIENDLY PEOPLE YOU JUST CHIT-CHAT WITH SOMETIMES. PEOPLE DO IT ALL THE TIME. IT’S. NOT. THAT. DIFFERENT.

Your online friends don’t have to be your soul mates to “count.” You are allowed to have casual friendships as well as deep important ones. That’s normal.

realsocialskills said:

I think there are important differences between online and in-person interactions, and that there are ways in which things change when you spend time with someone in person.

But online interactions and friendships absolutely are real.