27 votes

In what ways have internet friendships/communities made a positive impact on your life?

I think many of us are here because of our shared appreciation for community-building, right? So, I figure there's a good chance that you, dearest reader, have a not-so-common perspective with regards to forming bonds over the net. (At least, relative to your average person.)

I'm a fan of the wholesome, so here's a topic for sharing positive stories about the good the web can do. :)

21 comments

  1. [3]
    maze Link
    Back in 2012, my life took very drastic and sudden turn for the worst. I went through the start of a horrible divorce and custody battle. I lost my apartment, and shortly into 2013 I had to leave...

    Back in 2012, my life took very drastic and sudden turn for the worst. I went through the start of a horrible divorce and custody battle. I lost my apartment, and shortly into 2013 I had to leave my job due to the complications of all of this. My primary focus was for my daughter so that I can be in her life, and because of that ongoing Court battle it became difficult to get consistent work.

    During that time, I began to share my art online. In 2013, I joined a few online communities, and unexpectedly was able to turn my hobbies at the time into what eventually became a five-year career. The driving force behind a lot of my success in those years was the online communities that encouraged, shared, and critiqued my work.

    Unfortunately, with the negative news surrounding many social media sites in the last couple years, I have limited activities on all sites and deleted many of my accounts. In some ways, how good my life is right now is because of social media and the exposure and networks it allowed me to access. So I am not completely removing myself from social media because I see a lot of value in the communities that are created digitally. However, I think that we're at a very important place in the history of the internet right now because so many people are starting to see and understand how our data and privacy are used and often abused.

    I'm hopeful that social media and online communities will start to take back the positive things that have been neglected in recent years, and provide safe havens again for artists, professionals, and hobbyists.

    12 votes
    1. [2]
      vivaria Link Parent
      Are you still creating? I can't tell if you're speaking in past-tense with 'five-year career', so I'm curious if you continue to enjoy your artforms despite the challenges that existing social...

      Are you still creating? I can't tell if you're speaking in past-tense with 'five-year career', so I'm curious if you continue to enjoy your artforms despite the challenges that existing social media websites have presented.

      4 votes
      1. maze Link Parent
        I've more or less "retired" from the art that was my career. I'm only doing 1 commissioned piece this year. I used to do 50-100 per year. I'm still actively creating in other forms: indie game...

        I've more or less "retired" from the art that was my career. I'm only doing 1 commissioned piece this year. I used to do 50-100 per year.

        I'm still actively creating in other forms: indie game developing, digital art, music, and writing.

        6 votes
  2. [4]
    acdw Link
    When I went Linux, one of the first distros I ever used was Crunchbang. The community in the Crunchbang forum, and especially one use whose handle I've forgotten, was incredibly supportive and...

    When I went Linux, one of the first distros I ever used was Crunchbang. The community in the Crunchbang forum, and especially one use whose handle I've forgotten, was incredibly supportive and helped me realize how great the open-source community can be, and helped me become as comfortable using Linux as I am now. I'm still Facebook friends with that one user, and though we haven't talked in some time, I think about him now and then and I hope he's okay.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      Silbern Link Parent
      I also used to hang around the Crunchbang forums and the Google+ page a lot, it really was a fantastic community. I'll never forget the enjoyment of following along the 30 window managers in 30...

      I also used to hang around the Crunchbang forums and the Google+ page a lot, it really was a fantastic community. I'll never forget the enjoyment of following along the 30 window managers in 30 days post, it's to date the best and most comprehensive review I've ever seen of Linux window managers. Sadly, I think it can only be accessed through the way back machine these days, which makes following along difficult since the links probably don't work there...

      1 vote
      1. acdw Link Parent
        Oh man, I remember the 30x30 thing. I agree, it was so good and so informative! It'd be great to try doing that again, 2019-style, with the WM's and DE's (and Wayland and X..) that exist now.

        Oh man, I remember the 30x30 thing. I agree, it was so good and so informative! It'd be great to try doing that again, 2019-style, with the WM's and DE's (and Wayland and X..) that exist now.

    2. SourceContribute Link Parent
      I liked the ArchLinux wiki, forums and IRC for the same reason. Very supportive and very maker/hacker/coder-oriented in some respects. It's amazing how much better the communities in free/open...

      I liked the ArchLinux wiki, forums and IRC for the same reason. Very supportive and very maker/hacker/coder-oriented in some respects. It's amazing how much better the communities in free/open source are than the commercial/proprietary equivalents. I can't imagine being in a user group for PhotoShop for example.

      1 vote
  3. emdash Link
    I met my boyfriend through IRC nearly two years ago. We're still together :). Also have made several good friends through IRC both locally & internationally, that I have met several times, and...

    I met my boyfriend through IRC nearly two years ago. We're still together :). Also have made several good friends through IRC both locally & internationally, that I have met several times, and have helped out immeasurably in my personal & professional life. Two of them are tildes members!

    5 votes
  4. vili (edited ) Link
    I'm a big Prince fan. When he passed away, someone asked me what my most cherished Prince memory was. Instead of the concerts that I attended, albums that I loved and bootlegs that I have hunted...

    I'm a big Prince fan. When he passed away, someone asked me what my most cherished Prince memory was. Instead of the concerts that I attended, albums that I loved and bootlegs that I have hunted down, I realised that my most important Prince memory was the online Prince community that existed back in the 1990s.

    The early and mid-90s was a magical time to be a Prince fan. He was going through a pretty public battle with his record label, changed his name to Mr Squiggles (or O(+> as we computer savvy people called him), and was not only incredibly prolific but also put out some of the best and most personal material of his career.

    At the same time, the World Wide Web had become a thing and with it, HTML based online chat rooms. Not only was Prince one of the first artists to embrace this kind of new interactivity (here's his musings about it from 1993), but a pretty strong global community of fans developed around what was called Hammer's Prince website, later moving to a place called Togdog, which I think then morphed into what is now Prince.org.

    Two things made that early Prince community an incredibly memorable place to be. One is that Prince as a person and an artist always sought to defy categorisation and promote diversity. It didn't matter if you were a man or a woman, black or white, straight or gay, or whatever, you were only asked to embrace who you were and your own potential. This is an incredibly powerful message and as you can imagine, attracted an assortment of pretty weird and wonderful people from around the world.

    Add to that the fact that back in the 90s, those who were online had to be a bit weird and wonderful to begin with.

    Secondly, being a Prince fan at that point in time wasn't exactly the definition of "cool". He was seen as "last decade" as he didn't sound anything like Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins or any of the other cool contemporary acts. He was just weird. And old. And weird. Because of this, you couldn't really share your enthusiasm about Prince and discuss all the many things that were going on with him with any of your real life friends. But in that cyber world of the online chat room, you could. Naturally, this made the Prince online community even tighter.

    During those long chat sessions over the years, I made a lot of wonderful friends from around the world. With many of them I still keep in touch today, but even more importantly, what stayed with me was that feeling of community, diversity, love and acceptance that crossed national, cultural and language barriers. I think it really shaped who I am today.

    Online music discussion groups actually also had another pretty big impact on my life. Also back in the 90s, I ran a mailing list dedicated to the French chanteuse Patricia Kaas. One day, someone on the list asked if anyone could help her find a particular album that she couldn't buy in her home country (this being before web shops really were a thing). I sent her a copy, as a local shop where I lived happened to have one on sale. A couple of years later, I visited this girl when I was travelling around Europe. A couple of years from then I moved to live with her. We got married. Have been together for almost 20 years now.

    5 votes
  5. [3]
    hereticalgorithm (edited ) Link
    I've been online since elementary school, and it's been a mixed bag, primarily good. The best thing that's happened to me because of the Internet, and quite frankly, in general was when I was...

    I've been online since elementary school, and it's been a mixed bag, primarily good.

    The best thing that's happened to me because of the Internet, and quite frankly, in general was when I was trying to transistion with an unsupportive family. Between the Reddit trans community, people I met from the brony fandom (sorry for being a loser), and people I met on OKC (yeah it actually used to be decent for finding friends if you're queer), I was able to establish the support network required to move to another city.

    The worst thing is that I've came out a bit strange (tho not malicious) socially due to it having been my main source of socializing until running away. Many of my friends that I've met offline report that I "talk like a meme", and I have difficulty identifying and navigating the implicit groups that exist IRL. It is also possible that IRL social difficulty (few points short of an autism diagnosis) may have driven me to the internet. I'm sure the effect works in both directions.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      vivaria Link Parent
      Hey. Thanks for being honest about your experiences, even in spite of the stigma/shame attached to them. I understand that kneejerk defensive reaction where there's this feeling of needing to...

      Hey. Thanks for being honest about your experiences, even in spite of the stigma/shame attached to them. I understand that kneejerk defensive reaction where there's this feeling of needing to justify yourself and your choices. As someone who also deviates from norms quite often, it sucks to have to endure years and years of suggestions (explicit and implicit) that your identity is invalid or wrong.

      As for social skills vs. internet usage ("what caused what?"), I've had that exact same dilemma myself for most of my life. FWIW, I recently got my ASD diagnosis after years of telling myself I just needed to practice more. No amount of forcing myself to be social ever "fixed" things. I've been putting myself in IRL groups for years and years now. To the point where I don't think my social issues were caused by my internet usage. I think I was drawn to the internet because it allowed me to express myself in ways that I wasn't functionally capable of doing IRL.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. vivaria (edited ) Link Parent
          (This sort of morphed into a rambling story, rather than a point-by-point response. My apologies.) I've struggled with mental health concerns since I was very little. (This has ranged from anxiety...

          (This sort of morphed into a rambling story, rather than a point-by-point response. My apologies.)

          I've struggled with mental health concerns since I was very little. (This has ranged from anxiety to depression to emotional management to executive dysfunction. Meltdowns/shutdowns had been a major part of my adolescence and teens... which sounds polite, but, these were very severe and hospitalizations have been involved many times.) So, an increased focus on my mental state and behaviors has been a big, big part of my life -- whether through child psychology, counseling, psychiatry, crisis management, etc.

          It's really, really hard to pin things down when you're dealing with a hysteric, uncooperative 10 year old, though, so unfortunately my story involves many misdiagnoses. I was tested for ASD around this time, but according to my mum, we were told I didn't fit because I was too high-functioning to have ASD. (Breaking news! Gifted kid is too smart to be disabled. More at 11.) This false negative put us off the scent for a good decade or so. I had suspicions, but whenever I'd bring it up, mum would tell me I had already been evaluated, and I would put the thought out of my mind.

          Instead, the labels I got from psychologists and psychiatrists were "intermittent explosive disorder" then "bipolar disorder" then "type II bipolar disorder" then "rapid cycling mood disorder" then "ADHD" then "borderline personality disorder." But, into my 20s, and after cycling through at least a dozen different mood stabilizers, nothing really... improved? I kept seeking help because I kept having breakdowns. With the therapy and the medications, It always felt like we were treating the symptoms and not the cause. Only at 23 did I save up enough money to seek a reassessment. Not for ASD particularly, but as a last-ditch "I don't understand, and I want to understand" measure.

          The psychologist my mum and I met with came to the conclusion that I had ASD independently. I had 15+ years of records for him to sift through, along with tests and interviews done in the present, as an adult. He was able put the pieces together with this new information and a healthy dose of hindsight. The report I was given neatly summarizes my sensory issues and social difficulties, and it's felt like a better fit than any other label I've been given.

          From conversations I've had with neurodivergent folks from all walks of life, my path to diagnosis is simultaneously harder and easier than most people with ASD. Harder in the sense that I went through so much crap that was just plain wrong vs. how my brain really works. Easier in the sense that I waltzed into an ASD diagnosis without even trying. (I've heard many stories about difficulties in receiving an ASD diagnosis. There are all sorts of complicating factors that make seeking one challenging.) It's hard to give advice... even after everything I've been through, I don't feel any more equipped to navigate the systems we live in. I hope for your friend's sake they live in a country that prioritizes mental health resources and care. It's an exhausting maze.

          tl;dr: My story has been "PROBLEM. BIG PROBLEM. ANSWERS NOT MAKE SENSE. TRY NEW ANSWERS." rather than any a-ha moment. I kept searching, and eventually things fit.

          EDIT: If you want more info on the specific quirks that led to the diagnosis, I can talk about how it presented in me. I guess I didn't really answer the question, did I. :V

          3 votes
  6. [2]
    sadrith_mora Link
    I wasn't allowed to get out of the house much, so I basically had no friends and grew up on the internet. In 2007, I found a manga forum, and stuck with those people for years. We've started a...

    I wasn't allowed to get out of the house much, so I basically had no friends and grew up on the internet. In 2007, I found a manga forum, and stuck with those people for years. We've started a scanlation group, we've had a ridiculous amount of fun, a few of them even met IRL (most are from USA, so no chance for me).

    We still keep in touch sporadically, we've changed a lot and sort of drifted apart, some of them have kids now so internet time is rare xD, but I still look back on that time with fondness. I've never belonged more in an internet community since, and I keep hoping I'll find something just as genuine again.

    4 votes
    1. SourceContribute Link Parent
      Yeah I have a buddy who I hacked on random code with years and years ago and played massive amounts of CS:GO with and haven't met IRL. It's a bit of a downer because the dude is awesome and his...

      a few of them even met IRL

      Yeah I have a buddy who I hacked on random code with years and years ago and played massive amounts of CS:GO with and haven't met IRL. It's a bit of a downer because the dude is awesome and his coding skills are damn good.

  7. markh Link
    I got my current job through a friend I met on IRC years ago.

    I got my current job through a friend I met on IRC years ago.

    3 votes
  8. asoftbird Link
    l met a lot of friends (like, 15-ish?) through a national subreddit's meetups and we formed our own private subreddit and chat groups on other apps. l see them regularly and l think it's one of...

    l met a lot of friends (like, 15-ish?) through a national subreddit's meetups and we formed our own private subreddit and chat groups on other apps. l see them regularly and l think it's one of the better friend groups l have.

    Same goes for discord, also know loads of friends through there. l just took a break from that because it was getting addictive.

    3 votes
  9. Algernon_Asimov (edited ) Link
    I've been a member of a private Facebook group for about 8-9 years now (admittedly, I've been visiting there less often over the past year or so, but I'm still a member). There are about 70-80...

    I've been a member of a private Facebook group for about 8-9 years now (admittedly, I've been visiting there less often over the past year or so, but I'm still a member). There are about 70-80 people there from all around the world: USA, Britain, Australia, South Africa, Switzerland, even one in Egypt. The membership skews heavily towards middle-aged and older, but there are a couple of younger members in the mix. Over the years, some of the members have travelled and met other members (I've met only one other member), and it's become a quite tight-knit social group, even though we all started as strangers (the origins of the group are a long and complicated story). We've even created our own slang and in-jokes, as you do.

    Over the years, we've shared lots of things with each other that we wouldn't share anywhere else: being a private group, and having built up a lot of trust in each other over the years, we know it's a safe space. Some people have come there to vent about things that they can't say in real life or even in a public Facebook post. Or someone will post a stupid article for us all to laugh at. It's an amazing environment. We even held a virtual baby shower for one of the members (and that baby has since started school... hmm...).

    This group has made a positive impact on my life. It has been a joy finding "my people" in an unlikely place like a Facebook group, and I have a strong sentimental attachment to the group.

    3 votes
  10. Silbern Link
    I was raised as a Navy brat, which has meant moving every 2 or 3 years for pretty much my entire life. Given that I already have Asperger's Syndrome, making friends was something I struggled with...

    I was raised as a Navy brat, which has meant moving every 2 or 3 years for pretty much my entire life. Given that I already have Asperger's Syndrome, making friends was something I struggled with a lot as a kid, and even today I don't have very many IRL friends either.

    I've been a part of many different communities over the years, and they were the majority of my social life for a guy who otherwise might not have one. Because of the internet, I've made friends from pretty much all over the world, including places I'd otherwise never think much about like Venezeula, and I'd say that's definitely impacted my personal outlook on the world.

    I also got interested in computers from a very early age as a side-effect, and now here I am studying Computer Science at a university for a career that's both personally fullfilling and earns enough for a stable income, something there's not too many of.

    So yeah. I honestly can't imagine what my life would be like without the internet and my various online friends I've made over the years, and I'm not sure I'd really want to do so even if I could.

    1 vote
  11. [3]
    SourceContribute Link
    After reading some of these comments and reflecting on my own experiences with IRC and reddit and pre-reddit communities, it's amazing how much knowledge and life has been transferred and shared...

    After reading some of these comments and reflecting on my own experiences with IRC and reddit and pre-reddit communities, it's amazing how much knowledge and life has been transferred and shared via the Internet and the web. It feels like we had a bit of a golden age for connectedness in the 2000s and now it's just turned into Eternal September on a massive scale and bad actors have only increased the noise x100.

    Give me IRC, a decent forum, a good wiki (like ArchLinux Wiki) and email for the rest and it'll be good enough to learn new things, chat about random things, and get work done.

    I think this is why I've started a gaming group on Discord (we play Destiny 2 and other games), and an AI/Machine Learning group for Canadians on Facebook and why I still hang out on Freenode IRC in #emacs sometimes. Somehow Slack groups and other forums don't feel the same.

    1. [2]
      vivaria Link Parent
      I wish I hadn't just deleted my Facebook account! I'm a Canadian focusing specifically on AI/ML in my uni studies right now. :(

      I wish I hadn't just deleted my Facebook account! I'm a Canadian focusing specifically on AI/ML in my uni studies right now. :(

      1. SourceContribute Link Parent
        Don't worry I'm sure Facebook still has a shadow profile on you that you can use! Haha. But more seriously, I had considered using LinkedIn but wasn't sure how many people actually use the groups...

        Don't worry I'm sure Facebook still has a shadow profile on you that you can use! Haha. But more seriously, I had considered using LinkedIn but wasn't sure how many people actually use the groups and setting up a new forum seemed like overkill.