How I Made Friends In A Digital Space

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I’ve always had a hard time making friends.
I’m quiet, socially awkward, and more than a little bit on the nerdy side. I play video games, watch a lot of movies, and still fantasize about becoming a Jedi Knight. While there have been exceptions, I don’t typically have many friends.

This is largely due to what it was like growing up. I was homeschooled, living in a religious home, and moving every couple years. While I didn’t mind being homeschooled (for the most part), not being able to interact with other kids my age every day was hard. Sure, I would play with the kids in our apartment complex, or in whichever neighborhood we found ourselves living in next, but I didn’t have a core group of friends to grow with.

Going to church every week helped, but living spaces weren’t the only thing we constantly moved from. I can recall attending at least five different churches in my lifetime. Some we left due to issues with their leadership, some from the way they did services, and others I’m not even sure of. These weren’t exactly the type of decision making conversations a parent has with a child. Similar to being homeschooled, moving around from one church to another made it hard to make friends. Just when I would meet a cool kid who shared my love for Pokemon, we were off to our next destination.

Things got a little easier as I got older, but I still found myself wishing we’d stay in one place for longer than two or three years. We eventually wound up at one church where we stayed for quite some time, and I finally found a good group of friends. Kids like me who played video games, watched movies, and had horribly inappropriate conversations when parents weren’t around. Never has the phrase “that’s what she said” been spoken more times in a church than by my group of friends and I.

Unfortunately, not everything lasts forever, and we ended up leaving that church too. However, this time things were different. I won’t get into the details, but our only options were to shut up or leave. We left.

Immediately after leaving, I started to notice things weren’t like they normally were after we left a church. My friends stopped answering phone calls, they didn’t want to hang out, and they would turn the other way if they saw my family and I in public. It turned out that our leaving came as a surprise to a lot of people, with gossip and speculation following shortly after. Things were spoken about both myself and my family that weren’t true, and everyone seemed to buy into it. All I had wanted in life was a close group of friends, so when I finally had it, only to lose them, it was devastating.

I slowly started pulling away from everyone, my family included. This was also when I started to struggle with stress, anxiety, and depression. I was angry at my parents for leaving the place where all of my friends were, I was angry at my friends for the way they were treating me, and I was angry at the concept of God I had in my head.

Over the next year, things just kept getting worse. I started cutting my wrists and legs, and as things got further, I even attempted to take my own life. This was life at its lowest for me. Thankfully, I got better. I had the right people enter my life at the right moment and help me overcome the problems and pain I was dealing with. It has been a long journey, but I’ve safely come out on the other side.

Because of how things played out with that last church, I’ve had an extremely hard time opening up to most people and making long lasting friendships. There’s been a few exceptions, but nowadays I typically keep my circle of friends small. However, that’s starting to change.

Over the past couple years, I’ve taken my love of video games and fused it with my passion for writing. I’ve been blogging for some time now and it has been one of the greatest sources of enjoyment I’ve ever experienced. While I have plenty of room to improve, I find that writing that satisfies me in a weird way that nothing else has been able to. Being able to take what I love and discuss it with people around the world is incredible, but the best part has been the friends I’ve made while doing so.

Starting with the blogs on IGN, I’ve met some of the coolest like minded people in the world. People who make me laugh, encourage me, and share the same interests and hobbies. People who I don’t have to be worried about being myself around. People who accept me for me.

I now run a Google Plus community that’s 60 people strong. Checking in every day with these people I’ve spent a long time getting to know is wonderful. Talking about video games is primarily what we do, but we also discuss everything from music, television, and life in general. We also tease each other relentlessly (in a well mannered fashion), which is always fun as well.

For the first time in, well, forever…I feel like I have a real home with my friends. I love them all to death, and their constant kindness and acceptance towards me means more to me than I have words for.

While most people just think the internet is for research, memes, or porn (I see you perverts out there), I’ve come to know it as one of the best tools to form great friendships with.

To the friends I’ve made online, thank you for the past couple years. You’ve helped me and meant more to me than you’ll ever know. Here’s to the future.

– Zack Burrows


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