Technology has made it easier than ever to communicate and form friendships
Making friends with people online is more common than ever. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported that 57 percent of teens made friends online. The odds of finding someone – anyone – in the world with the same interests seems to be higher than ever thanks to the never-ending list of popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr to name a few.
“Social media helps teens feel more connected to their friends’ feelings and daily lives, and also offers teens a place to receive support from others during challenging times,” the Pew Research Center states in the 2015 study.
Nikole Tower, an Arizona State University sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication met her friend Kaitz Haynes four years ago on Twitter because of a common interest. Haynes lives in Durban, South Africa. Despite the distance between them – 10,275 miles – Tower and Haynes became good friends. They bonded over Twitter through a Five Second of Summer fan account with two other girls – one from Kansas and one from Italy.
“I already had the account for a little over a year, and since the fandom was literally all over the world I wanted to create a worldwide group message with other fans,” Tower says. “That’s what I did. We talked through Whatsapp for a few months, just fangirling about bands and talking about our different cultures.”
Eventually Tower’s fangirl group talked less and less, but she stayed in near-constant contact with Haynes.
“Kaitz and I talked constantly,” Tower says. “We messaged each other every day despite the 9 hour time difference. I had just turned 17 and she was 18. It was just like having a pen pal, but an online one. We would compare each other’s school work, talk about our personal drama and dream about meeting each other in person one day.”
According to the Pew report, of the teens who met friends online only 20 percent met that friend in person. Tower and Haynes fit in that category. Two years ago, Haynes visited Tower in Arizona and just last December, Tower flew to Durban, South Africa to visit Haynes.