Making friends in public spaces can be tricky if you are socially awkward. It can feel easier making friends online. Many people these days have formed friendships with people from all walks of life that they have never met before that don’t require awkward small talk. 

‘Looking for friendships in hopeless place…’

Siphesihle (23) met Oyama (23) most unexpectedly, “I was on Tinder looking for love (laughs)… I wasn’t finding it, and I saw there was a section for friendships as well.” And so she found a ‘pen pal’.

Oyama was on Tinder looking for companionship, whether platonic or romantic. Receiving Siphesihle’s text helped her avoid the small talk she hates: “I am an awkward person, and daily physical interactions are just awkward for me. As people, we small talk all the time, and it is the cringiest thing I have to do, so when S’phe texted, her message didn’t carry any awkward feeling of cringe.”

Siphesihle remembers wanting to be bold in making friendships, especially online, since there wasn’t any physical pressure. “I just texted, ‘let’s be friends from now on since we’re the weirdos looking for friendship in hopeless places’. That broke the ice and we thankfully avoided small talk.”

They have been friends since meeting on Tinder during peak COVID in 2020. The two friends were interviewed separately as they still haven’t met. Siphesihle is from Cape Town, and Oyama is from Port Elizabeth. When asked if online friendships work, Oyama said, “Yes, because there isn’t any pretence when you text. The possibility of catfishing is there with pictures, but unlike romantic relationships, your looks don’t matter anyway. All you have to do is be a nice person to get along with.”

‘People can sell you a dream….’

Brian (19), an introvert by nature who struggles with social anxiety, thought he had made a friend when he got a random text on his Facebook one day. A girl claimed to have seen him at school, liked him and asked for his number from a mutual friend. 

“I didn’t know her, but I was curious about it. It felt nice to feel seen. There wasn’t any romantic energy going on, and we kept it quite platonic; I only wanted to grow the friendship until I met her.” Her page looked normal enough, and Brian didn’t feel the need to check up on her or verify her information.

They shared deeply about themselves, and after three months, Brian wanted to meet her. “It was important to meet because, for me, online can only go so far. Over time I wanted to meet this person, and virtual wasn’t working for me.”

When asked why virtual friendships do not work, he reflects on the feeling they didn’t know each other. 

“We would catch up about daily life, but I still felt like I didn’t know enough. I found it weird that she didn’t mind not meeting up. Still, I wonder if she got scared somehow or was lying about who she was.” 

Brian, unfortunately, will always be in a state of wondering as she disappeared after Brian suggested they meet up. She deleted her account, and he never heard from her again.

“For me, virtual friendships don’t work because people can sell you a dream, and you have no choice but to believe them. Reality is you don’t know anything other than what they choose to share, then do you know them?”

As Brian says, you can only believe what the person chooses to share, but Siphesihle seemed to have found a genuine friendship with Oyama.

Are online friendships worth it? What is your experience? Tell us in the comments below.