My sidekick is literally by my side most hours of the day. To be more specific, it’s right there in my pocket. I remember the first time I heard the term “pocket friends” and realized what a perfect description it was.
Each day I spend time in a couple of group chats, communicating with people I’ve met online, all connected in one way or the other to the Supernatural fandom. Whether we initially met through GISHWHES, the annual worldwide scavenger hunt, or met through our love of consuming and creating transformative works (fiction and art), our bond has developed from having this single, common starting point into deep and meaningful friendships.
Some of these friends live close by, close enough that we can get together for lunches and birthdays. Some I’ve traveled across the country to meet. Some I’ve never laid eyes on and our entire relationship consists of words typed on screens. All of them bring me laughter and acceptance on a daily basis. All of them give me a place to vent on a bad day, and a place to share my joys and successes. Over the past three or so years, we’ve been together through thick and thin: promotions and new babies, illness and divorce.
People who have never had online friends can’t always understand the phenomenon. How can you be friends with people you haven’t met? How can you believe they are who they claim to be? While interacting with people you don’t know online always requires the usage of common sense, I feel sad for people who aren’t willing to consider this type of friendship. I am truly blessed to have so many special people in my life, people whose paths I never would have crossed otherwise.
In these groups are people with lives similar to mine, and those whose experiences are radically different. We come from different parts of the world, and were born in different eras. We’re in wildly different stages of our lives, and yet, none of that seems to matter.
A group chat is a special sort of beast, one that takes some navigation to get right. You can only get out of it what you put in. A group chat isn’t a one way street, it’s not there to function as your personal, captive audience. It requires giving of yourself and your time. If you aren’t there doing your share of wholeheartedly cheering on your friends or offering up virtual chocolate and hugs, you’re missing out on the true depths of friendships available.
These chats with my online friends provide a safe place for me each day. A place full of shorthand and inside jokes. A place always at my fingertips where I can reach out for advice or find silly distraction. Some days, these are the first people I talk to before getting up to start my day and the last place I check in before calling it a night. None of this detracts from my “in real life” friendships. Those are valued and important and meaningful for sure. But there’s a certain freedom of having this ability to interact in the palm of my hand. As an introvert, it’s energizing to come and go from a chat as needed. There’s a lovely simplicity in not having to plan ahead or set aside chunks of time to catch up.
To my pocket friends, you know who you are. With this, I hope you know how much I love and appreciate you and all that you have brought into my life. By having you with me, I’m a little braver and my every day is a little brighter.
To learn more about the Embrace Your Sidekick campaign and how you can get involved, click here.