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How Strangers from the Internet Changed My Life

The other day I walked past a mirror and caught a glimpse of myself. I turned around, stared into my reflection, and thought, I’ve changed. How have I changed? When did this happen? And why?
 
For one, I have gotten noticeably, um, frumpier. The last time I got my haircut and the stylist asked, “What is your morning hair routine?” I all but laughed in her face. I work from home and my morning routine has become a messy bun and yoga pants. Plus, I’ve been wearing my glasses regularly since the pink eyed monster incident, which is a new daily look for me. I’m not saying that glasses are frumpy. I’m saying that what I look like for work now is what I used to look like when I was crawling into bed.
 
I’ve changed.
 
I could list out all the ways I’ve changed here. Like, I don’t really go to happy hours any more or I occasionally wear dresses for fun now. Or something deeper like I’ve stopped comparing my life to others or how I see things like love and equality differently than I used to. Or I could go really big and tell you how my faith has changed, but that’s a story for another time.
 
Today I’m thinking about how it’s not just what I wear or how I feel about myself that has changed. It’s so much bigger than that. I’ve changed how I interact with the world. I don’t talk on the phone with people any more. Not my family, not my friends, not even my clients very much. I don’t send birthday cards or thank you cards or hand written notes “just because.”
 
Instead I text, tweet, blog, and email with the people in my life. Only, the “people in my life” aren’t just family, friends, and co-workers now. The list also includes “strangers from the internet.” I’ve become noticeably less social in person but more social on social media. I’m not meeting friends for coffee as much anymore. My interaction with the world is virtual.
 
It’s changed me.
 
I’m invested in the lives of people I’ve never met. I’m rooting them on in life and not just for the little things. I’m watching them recover from surgeries, struggle with infertility, and mourn the loss of loved ones. I’m listening to them talk about being discriminated against, coming out to their parents or spouses, and raising kids with disabilities. We are talking about our biggest fears, our bittersweet memories, and our goals in life.
 
We are best friends.
 
These strangers from the internet have reminded me how much life chews you up, spits you out, then stomps on you for good measure. In the process it re-shapes you over and over until you find yourself dazed, wondering who you are and what the heck just happened. When you find the strength to look around all you see are out stretched hands waiting to pick you up.
 
All of these things have combined together to make me into one big messy blob. I’m a messy blob with a messy bun, a messy house, and a messy face that cries at commercials. I care more about people now than I ever have. Strangers from the internet have changed my life. I love them so much I married one.
 
How have the people you’ve met online changed your life?
 

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17 Comments

  1. Heather on December 13, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    Love this! Since I started blogging it has been the most pleasant surprise how I’ve connected with strangers. Although I’m still glad I met you in person! 🙂

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 13, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      I’m glad I met you in person too Heather!

  2. Beth on December 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    YES to all of this. So many of my closest friends are people I met on the internet. It has definitely changed me too, in a good way 🙂

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      That’s awesome Beth! It is a different way to build a relationship but I love it. I love that I can interact with people from all over the world.

  3. StephTheBookworm on December 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    I get this 100%! I’ve been blogging since 2009 so I have made quite a number of friends on the internet! I also met my husband online. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few of my blog friends in person too. It’s awesome and scary building these friendships online.

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      It is a little scary Steph but you’re right, it’s pretty awesome too. Where did you meet your husband? I had another read say she met her husband on My Space!

  4. Charlotte on December 13, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    I don’t even know where to start with this because I love it so much. I get it. Completely. There are days when I think my virtual friends understand me on a deeper emotional level than many of my in real life friends, and sometimes it’s hard to understand why… sometimes the winds of life carry us in different directions and it’s a bit harder to maintain those old friendships. Other times, it’s comforting to reveal inner feelings to people we’ve never met before.

    But those friendships are every bit as important. I feel like we are in very similar places, bc I work from home, too and so much of my life is online too. Sometimes it’s a blessing and a curse, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for sharing this with us…your writing is beautiful and authentic and it’s always a pleasure to be in your home …messy bun and all 😉

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 14, 2017 at 11:48 am

      I almost teared up at this, thank you Charlotte! You are always welcome here, messy buns optional. 🙂 I think in some ways I used to discount friendships with people I met online. “Oh, that’s just someone I know from the internet.” Times have changed though! As you said, relationships I have built online are every bit as important.

  5. Anthea on December 14, 2017 at 4:29 am

    I agree with Charlotte – I’m also not sure where to start! So much I want to say.
    I absolutely love this post and I know what you mean. We are all sharing parts of our lives on our blogs and sometimes it is easier to write and say what it is we are thinking/feeling/celebrating/working towards or just concerned about.
    The other day when e-mailing a fellow blogger I wondered if it was odd that I had shared with her more than most of my close friends that I’ve known for years. It was so easy to let her in and tell her about something that was weighing on me.
    And it was then that I realised something – this awesome blogging community has allowed us to get to know each other and I feel so fortunate to be a part of it.

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 14, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Me to Anthea! I think online relationships start out with little expectations and grow organically. You can really get to know someone by what they post and share so there is an easy progression to a deeper relationship. I’ve always been better at communicating my thoughts and feelings through writing.

  6. Erinn on December 14, 2017 at 9:23 am

    I feel the same way about connecting with strangers from the internet! At first I thought it would be so weird, but now I consider these women friends. And I’d be happy to get to know them in person.

  7. ShootingStarsMag on December 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Great post. I’ve been making friends and connects online for YEARS – probably at least 15 years now – and I’ve learned so much about myself, life, and other people.

    -Lauren

  8. San on December 14, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    <3 I feel the same way. While I didn't meet my husband online, I've made so many friendships over the Internet over the last few years. I don't want to miss any of you guys!

  9. Britney on December 17, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Here where I live, I literally have no friends. The only social interaction I have in real life is with my family. I did have a couple friends here at one point, but over a year ago they both blocked me on social media and cut off contact. I still don’t understand it, but I think it was for the best because I don’t need people like that in my life anyway. I’m highly introverted, so I really don’t go out at all, and it’s hard for me to open myself up and make friends in the real world. It’s much easier for me to express myself and make friends on the internet. There are some online pals that I’ve had for about ten years ago, which is awesome. The internet has always been my main point of social interaction.

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 22, 2017 at 6:06 pm

      I find it easier to open myself up online too. I think it’s a combination of being an introvert and also being able to respond to things on my own terms. I often need time to think and process and that’s hard to do in a fast paced, real life conversation. As I get older I just prefer being home but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to connect with people. I really do love the internet for the relationships it has helped me build!

  10. Leslie on December 22, 2017 at 12:44 pm

    I love this post! I haven’t thought about it but other than going to work and speaking to coworkers and patients- I do most of my interactions through texts and emails too. I dread making phone calls is how bad it’s gotten. I think I like strangers from the internet more than most of the people around me.

    • Courtney A. Casto on December 22, 2017 at 6:15 pm

      Thanks Leslie! I’ve never been a fan of making phone calls. I used to break into a cold sweat when I had to call to make a doctor’s appointment when I was younger! I like being able to build relationships in my own way, without forced activities or interactions. The internet is great for that. I certainly didn’t plan for my life to be mostly online but that’s okay! It works for me.

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