Updated: Aug 20, 2019
Over the past few years I’ve made some amazing friendships thanks to online connections. Some of them live online and some have translated to offline friendships and get togethers. Did I think this would happen or be so important to me when I first started making art and sharing it online? Not at all. Has it become a way I’ve made a bunch of new friends in the creative community? Definitely, yes!
“Internet friends count as friends” is something Hope of @hopebroidery shares all the time and something I’ve come to know to be very true. Before I started using Instagram to share my work, I didn’t really see the value of engaging with others- I mean I was happy with the people around me and I was just sharing about my life. Why should I connect with internet strangers?
Turns out those internet strangers are similar to me and we're able to connect through shared passions- if you can’t tell by now, I'm mostly into fiber art and plants :P
For me, making art and running a small business is all done in isolation. By that, I mean I do it on my own- I don’t have office space, I don’t have coworkers, and I don’t even really talk with outside vendors to order products, thanks to the beauty of the internet. While this all plays into my introverted self nicely, it also means that I don’t meet many people in the creative community face to face in my daily routine. Because of this, engaging online has become extremely valuable to me because I can share my art, meet like minded people, and discuss small business with other single scrappy shop owners like myself.
Online is such a great place to develop friendships because there isn’t a geographical boundary. Hashtags, SEO, and search features make it easy to connect over shared interests and I get to meet so many more people than I would just living my daily life. Thanks to early embroidery artists like Lauren of YesStitchYes and Jenn Riggs of ThreadHoney, who I found through Instagram, I was inspired to pick up embroidery again. This might not of happened had I not found them online. Thanks to my love of fiber arts I also found the work of Micah Clasper-Torch of ClasperTorch, (who I’m a total fan girl of btw) and she's inspired me to rethink how craft, art, and fashion converge. And thanks to the internet I’ve met many local artists in my community. Internet connections have helped me learn about the amazing people around me-near and far.
The internet has also helped me bring some of these relationships offline. From connecting with other artists at markets, to finding wholesale accounts, to meeting some of the amazing women makers I rely on as my small business sounding board— these connections have shown me that the internet can be a connecting point and it's only the start of growing new relationships and friendships. So much so that I try to host a monthly creative get together to connect in-person with many of my local “internet friends.” I always look forward to each get together, which is usually over drinks and snacks while we're all working on projects.
Thanks to Instagram I can truly say that some of the accounts I follow are my real friends on and offline. Without these friendships I wouldn’t have the confidence to be as open as I am about running a small business or to want to connect and cultivate community as I have. My introverted self would be very content to make things and watch all the murder mystery/ true crime shows I could get my hands on but this wouldn't help me grow as an artist or as a person.
While connecting online can feel somewhat disconnected from my daily life, I’ve found that engaging with genuine people has helped me be more empathetic, be less competitive, and see the value in supporting other artists (from all fields, including my own), and has helped me develop real friendships with people who share similar interests to me. When I’m empathetic and real, others are real and honest with me too.
Now not all online engagements will blossom into friendships, and that’s ok. You don’t have to be friends with every Internet stranger you virtually meet. I just think it’s important to be open to what could happen and to not discount an online friend from turning into someone important in your life. Whether that friendship stays online or translates offline, internet friends are real friends and can have a positive impact on your life.