Welcome to J&J Chats! A series of advice and discourse discussions from J (Jess) & J (Jas, aka, my girlfriend). Topics sent anonymously via curious cat. Current topic: How to make friends online.
(Jas, bolded.) I guess ask about them. Talk about yourself too but be curious about what they have to say because then it shows you’re interested.
(Jess, regular.) I don’t know how it’s that much different from making friends in person. Like why specify online friends, you know what I mean? It’s not that different. You make friends in person by having the same interests and wanting to learn about them.
Unless they don’t have any in real life friends or struggle to make friends in general but want to start with online friends because it’s less awkward.
Right. That’s true.
But don’t hold back, don’t just let a conversation die. Think if there’s something more you could say. If you want to talk to this person, you can find something else to say.
I think that could be part of why it’s hard. Maybe people trying to make friends online have a hard time being like, if the other person let the conversation die, then clearly, they don’t want to talk to me. When that might not always be the case. You both let the conversation die; it’s not down to the other person. It’s down to both of you.
Yeah and it might not be either party’s fault.
Yet on the other hand, it’s hard because sometimes that person just doesn’t want to be your friend, and people need to accept that too. If the other person just isn’t replying, then they maybe don’t want to be your friend.
Well, I don’t know if it’s always just down to no replying, but if you’ve tried to initiate several conversations and it’s just died every single time, and it’s not really gotten any better, then they probably don’t want to be your friend or don’t know how to talk to you. But sometimes, there might be a reason for the not-replying. But, there also might not be. And I guess it’s down to you to ask if you’re worried.
Or just move on. Just try to make a different friend. If they aren’t giving back as much as you’re giving in, they probably are just not that interested and not really worth your time.
But it’s hard because online, I feel like everyone has the expectation that they can make friends with whoever they want, and that they are owed friendship with any given person, but that’s not the case. People don’t owe you a friendship just because you both like the same thing.
Jas, if someone’s trying to be friends with you, what helps you stay in a conversation with them and wanting to be friends with them?
If they’ve got interesting stuff to say! If we’re having a nice back and forth and there’s always new topics coming up, or they’re talking about stuff that they love and we’re both kind of on the same level. I like that; that’s what keeps a conversation going. It’s not just, “Hey, how are you?” “Yeah I’m great.”
Even if you don’t know how to talk about topics because you’re too anxious you can kind of like—this is kind of like lying but—you could “fake autocorrect,” as I call it. Like, you fake it and pretend you meant something else and then joke about it. Because that can kind of lighten things and then you can tell—
I don’t get it, what are you talking about ?????
Well, like say you did a keyboard smash for real, and it autocorrects it to something else. Say I type JFLKDS, and it types “fanny” or something. You could “fake autocorrect” that! Just fake-type a random word and be like “haha it was meant to be a key smash.” I do that sometimes!
Oh my god.
It helps sometimes! Like you laugh about it, and then you’re already talking about something other than, “Hey how are you” “I’m good thanks how are you.”
That’s true, that’s true. That’s an interesting tip I wasn’t prepared for that.
And it’s not a bad lie.
No, no. Not a bad lie.
I’m sure we’ve all done it.
I feel like what you don’t want to lie about though—while we’re on the topic—is don’t lie about being interested in people. Like don’t ask questions unless you actually care. Don’t ask how someone is if you only want to talk about how you are. That’s not how you make friends.
Yeah, you need to be genuinely interested in their thoughts and feelings.
Yeah, because people can tell. People do this to me all the time, and I can tell when people don’t want to hear from me, and they only want to talk about themselves. It’s annoying, it’s frustrating, and I don’t have time for it.
It’s not healthy.
No, it’s not healthy. It’s just a problem. Like you aren’t close friends, you’re just using somebody online to be your therapist, and it’s totally different.
Yeah, and they try to get passed that by asking if you’re okay after they’ve said all that.
Or even if you start with, “Hey are you okay?” And the other person’s like, “Yeah, I’m great,” and you use that as a lead-in on how you’re doing not-great, and you unlock three childhood traumas in the process—that’s not okay.
You need to prepare the other person for it a little bit. Like, “I feel really bad about something.” “Oh, okay! What are you feeling bad about?” “Well, this kind of happened.” “Oh, okay, when did that happen?”
The person who you’re trying to be friends (slash therapists) with, needs to be aware that it’s building up to something. When people just message me, and they’re like, “Oh, I got attacked by my dad.” I appreciate them coming to me and saying such a big thing—
But, what if that happened to me? That could be quite traumatic, and I think if you’re going to say something like that, you need to make that other person aware and build it up. Like, “Oh, I’ve got issues with my dad.” “Oh, what’s happened with your dad?” This way you don’t just jump right in, do you know what I mean?
It’s wholly insensitive to force people online—to force acquaintances online—to hold onto your own trauma. Not everybody has the emotional capacity to do that at any given time. You need to build real friendships before you can start talking about these things with somebody else. That’s for online people or people you know in person, but it does tend to happen more so online.
You’ll probably know if that person wants you to talk about that thing. Some people are okay with you going in like that, and that’s probably because that’s how they are. But you need to build a friendship first to see if that person is ready for you to talk about that kind of stuff. They might not be used to that; it might be a lot for them to handle.
And some people—like me—take on others’ problems. So, when you come to me with something, I feel your pain. I don’t just understand, I feel it. So, it can be quite emotionally draining for me sometimes to be there for others’ problems because I feel it too. I might not have been through it–or I may have been through it–but either way I still feel it.
Yes. And I feel what happens with me, is a lot of people will do the, “Are you okay?” or “How are you?” and I’ll say that I’m fine or I’m doing okay even when I’m not. I just don’t want to talk about it with people I don’t know very well. And then they will still talk to me about their stuff, but we are only at that level of friendship where I feel like I shouldn’t be getting that information, because I know that it’s not something I would reciprocate back. Everything just needs to be at an equal level; that’s how you build relationships.
Well, that’s how you build real relationships that are healthy. Because without that, it can build an unhealthy environment for that reason that it’s unequal. That’s why people end up having “breaks” on Twitter because it takes a lot, mentally. (People might have other stuff going on too for a break), but a lot of things I’ve noticed is people just get overwhelmed with taking on others’ problems, and it really does affect them.
Our advice summary: Show real interest in the other person and make sure the level of self-disclosure is as equal as possible. If they don’t put in the same that you are giving, either dial back or move on. Also, fake keyboard smash.