Author’s Note: This isn’t a writing piece. This is something I’ve been meaning to tell you guys for a while, but only just got around to. Writing gets pushed to the back burner sometimes when school and work are overbearing. Nonetheless, this is how I feel and what I think about my internet friends. I love all of you dearly, even the ones I don’t talk to anymore…

Since the time I got my first smartphone at 13, I’ve made, and lost, a lot of internet friends. Sometimes, this virtual friendship is beautiful. It lets you learn about different cultures. It lets you in on different perspectives from a different standpoint. You learn about geographical barriers and tourist traps never to visit. You grow as a person, whether you realize it or not.

Sometimes, this virtual friendship is funny. You learn things about people. Within the first two weeks, you can learn what their biggest fear is, or that they’re allergic to red food coloring, and then five months later you find yourself asking, “Wait, you have a dog? Wait, you have three dogs??”

Sometimes, this virtual friendship is helpful. When stuck in a bad situation, you turn to these friends across the world to guide you through the day, to help you put one foot in front of the other, to help you breathe when you feel like you’ve run out of air. Other times, you learn random facts that you’ll probably never need to know ever, but three years down the road you’ll still be able to recall who taught you that random tidbit.

But sometimes, this virtual friendship is ugly. It’s heartbreaking. Sometimes, it’s getting texts in the middle of the night that say, “I don’t want to be alive anymore.” Sometimes, it’s receiving pictures of bruises with the caption, “Dad came home drunk again…” Sometimes, it’s sharing an exhausted phone call with someone you only started talking to a month ago, because neither of you wants to be alone, and nobody else would understand your silence. It’s feeling the need to hug them, to hurt the ones causing them pain, to help them with daily tasks when they’re incapable of doing it themselves, but being unable to because of the geographical barriers you so often discussed.

Today, I am unable to help three dear friends because I can’t drop everything and drive across the country to come to their aid. As much as I want to, as much as they need me to, I can’t. It’s not feasible.

Internet friendships, nonetheless, are invaluable. You gain and share not only knowledge, jokes and laughter, but also pain and torment. You share everything they feel, and they share everything you feel. There’s no obligation to stick around if you don’t want to, so you know that if someone has stayed by your side this long, they intend on staying a lot longer.

I send an apology to the friends I am unable to help. Know that I am with you in spirit, that not a day goes by when I don’t see something that reminds me of you. Know that, as often as I can, I am available for your 3 am existential crisis, or your 5 pm silent phone call.  I am here.

For lack of better phrasing, I leave you with a quote from the movie First Knight.

“I take the good with the bad, together. I can’t love people in slices.”