“Wait, isn’t it like two in the morning there?” I type in the words on the WhatsApp chat.
My friend in Singapore types back, “Yes, but isn’t it like already midnight in India?”
“Touche,” I type back with a grin. We are both established nightbirds after all. More reasons why we are such good friends.
I live in India, and Rizza lives in Singapore. She works as a reporter and I am a writer, so we both have common ground there. And, beyond that, we also share the same interests in music, movies and television dramas. A popular Thai drama is what brought us closer together. While other fans would gush over the leads, I needed someone to discuss how glaring and obvious the plot holes were, and there was Rizza, tweeting about the very thoughts I had. Instant friendship based on drama continuity errors! A truly precious connection, trust me.
However, besides sharing the occasional selfies with each other, we haven’t actually met in the two years we have known each other.
Today, the internet and fandom cultures have brought people from around the world together on a scale previously unimaginable. Sometimes I am amazed myself how I talk to people in Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, Philippines, Macedonia with never actually visiting any of those places or meeting any of those people. There would be some who wouldn’t consider “internet friends” actually friends, and I often wonder why.
Rizza and I have known each other for two years, as I mentioned earlier. We know each others’ families, even our addresses are not a secret (hint: birthday gift exchanges). We have mutual respect and love for each other, and we talk more about our lives than the fandoms we are in. We talk about caffeine addictions. We complain about how the older we get the more sleeping in the wrong position injures us, and that is when we aren’t even thirty but we both suffer the same. She sends me music recommendations, and I am slowly turning her into a crime podcast fan. Sometimes, I even end up sharing things with her I have not even told the friends I meet often.
I don’t like the “internet friend” label. Sure, I met them online and actually can’t ascertain if Rizza is indeed shorter than me, but a friend is a friend, no matter where you met them. Yes, there are scammers, people with evil intentions everywhere. As you find them online, you find them in real life too. So, why only mistrust those you meet online?
I won’t lie that all my years in the fandom space hasn’t led to some unfortunate incidents, but I have also met some amazing people. I have met clout-chasers, doxxers (basically people who take advantage of others trusting them with private information such only to expose them—it is considered a cybercrime now). I have also met people who lose their vocabulary when their favourite actor does something, but in reality, they are lawyers and doctors. Fandom for some adults is a space to relax, to take a break from their responsibilities. So, the friends you make along the way adds a lot to that experience.
Rizza has a hectic job and two cats who are a handful each. She turns to fandom to have fun, and it is the same with me. We both believe in always looking at things we enjoy with a critical point of view. We have the same thoughts about things often. I have honestly never met anyone who can gauge what I am thinking so correctly as Rizza does. We also share our sense of humour, that is laughing at vague memes. And to think, she doesn’t even know what I’m like in real life (do heavily filtered selfies count?). I share my bad days with her, and she comes to rant to me about hers. Our interactions have moved much beyond “Hey, did you notice how many times his hair length changed in the last episode?”
One day, I realised, I talk to Rizza more than I talk to some of my “real-life” friends. It was nothing big. I simply saw a post on Instagram and realised she would appreciate this. However, the app glitched, and I couldn’t send it to her at that time. When I told her of this, she said, “That’s adorable.” After I asked why, she responded, “You saw something silly and thought of me!”
That was the day I also pondered, am I not like this for everyone I care about in my life? Today, if you think about someone when you laugh at a meme, it means you know them well enough to know they will appreciate that brand of humour. It is always easy to offend people, but to know what will make them laugh is a special kind of knowledge.
Rizza was my friend. Period.
It didn’t matter that we haven’t met. I mean, we could meet one day, but until then, a friend is a friend, regardless of the medium that brings you closer.
Right now, my phone pings again. “I want a burger,” Rizza sends.
I frown. Seriously? Burgers at two in the morning? I type, “God, just make instant noodles like any self-respecting twenty-something would do at this hour.”
“Noodles are so yesterday…Literally, I had them yesterday. And the day before yesterday, too. I think.”
“And who’s gonna make the burger for Your Highness at this hour??”
“This is why people date. So, they can have someone make them burgers.”
“So, you agree you will date someone only if they know how to cook?”
“What other need can I have of them? Feed me and leave me alone.”
“Are you a cat?”
I laugh a little too loudly, and the night is awfully quiet, so it feels louder in the room.
I think to myself that one day when we finally meet, we must surely go out for burgers. Meanwhile, I type, “You’d make the world’s most horrid cat btw. You would sit in one corner, lick your paws and pass a judgemental look at the humans.”
“Hey, I’d make the best cat ever!”
Cover Image from iStock by Getty Images.
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