MY VIRTUAL FRIENDS
-So, you have never met them in person
-And yet, you think they are your best friends
-Oh I don’t think so. I know. They know everything about me and I know everything about them.
-How… can you trust them?
This kind of conversation happens all the time when I mention the group of 15 amazing women I speak to every single day, now through our Whatsapp, for almost 20 years. Half of them I have never met in person.
Our group has kept us sane in two decades of weddings, child-births, birthday parties, quinceañeras, divorces, trips, finding love again, reinventing our careers, surviving stay-at-home orders, all while cheering each other up constantly and sometimes, being brutally honest too.
But just how can you trust someone you have never met in person? Well, I have met 7 of the 15 in person, and the rest of them have met some of the others on different occasions. Sad fact: we finally agreed on a date and place to meet each other, I had my plane tickets and… COVID happened.
Ok, HOW can I trust them? This was, interestingly, very organic. Back in the early 2000s we were all planning our weddings and we all found a wedding planning web tool that had a forum section. It was a kind of an open mic for any wedding-related comment or question. There we found the constant commenters, the funny ones, the wise ones, the clever ones… and some crazy trolls, of course.
To avoid trolls, one of the ladies created a private forum for those of us that started to develop a virtual friendship. From hundreds of people we went down to about 80. Then another smaller group, then another. Then technology evolved, we all downloaded Whatsapp and long story short, 15 of us have been in touch throughout time, life and platforms, sharing thoughts, laughter, the occasional inappropriate joke about someone’s pet, inside jokes, parental advice, recipes and even traveling tips.
If you had told me when I was a kid, that this is how my adulthood circle of trust would look like, I would have laughed in your face. Because it sounds silly and so unlikely for me. But the truth is, without even thinking about it, I embraced the XXI century’s technology and used it to my emotional advantage. Because in all honesty, hadn’t it been for them, I would have lost my marbles more than once already.
Through these two decades, I have seen from a distance these amazing women flourish, across different countries of residence, so many career shifts, heartbreaks, losses, and so many successes with a constant for all of us: the certainty that at the tip of our fingers, there will be a real friend that even if she had never hugged us in person, has virtually hugged our soul.
While a lot of people have been skeptical about the strength and even the honesty of an online friendship (and rightfully so), I embraced it against all odds. And now I realize, they are the most stable friendship I have had in my entire life.
All 15 of us dream of the day we will be able to finally see each other in person, like a friend blind-date, ideally in the Caribbean or a Hacienda close to Mexico City. That would be a magical day full of code words, inside jokes, laughter, lots of real hugs and chickens (they know what I am talking about).