Illustration: Yvonne Yong
Bec: When I was younger, my dad sat me down and gave me the Internet Safety Lecture™. The usual maxims – ‘What goes on the internet stays on the internet’, and ‘Don’t trust people that you meet on the internet because you will never know if they are who they claim to be’. The latter in particular seems hilariously ironic now considering where my life was about to take me. Through what is admittedly a rather convoluted process, which spans no less than seven different websites at last count, I have met some of my most trusted friends over the internet. One of these people is Nai.
Naomi: I too have been warned many a time about the dangers posed by individuals on the internet. These warnings, however, did not deter me from joining various social media platforms and fostering connections with the people who populated these worlds. The result has been that I have made friends online who I treasure no less than those I have made in ‘real life’. Bec is one of my closest friends, and it is strange to think that there was a time when I only knew her by her username.
Bec: The two of us first encountered each other during ‘movie nights’ on a movie streaming site, hosted by Meg*, a mutual friend of ours on Tumblr. It took some time for me to muster up the nerve to join these movie nights and take part in the conversations, but I eventually did and I am forever glad for this decision. The tentative social network that had begun to form at Meg’s movie nights gradually strengthened, extending to Tumblr and beyond. Internet friendships tend to form hard and fast, bypassing relatively superficial concerns like real names and cutting straight to far more personal matters, the kinds of things most people will only tell their closest friends. It seems topsy turvy, but it works. There is something about talking to someone through the internet that, oddly, seems to free you from judgement and social barriers.
Naomi: After these movie nights ended, Pseuds*, one of the attendees, created a discord server – an online chat room of sorts – and invited the rest of us to join. Initially, I had my reservations – I had never heard of discord before and was unsure about its safety; I didn’t know the person who created the server very well as I had not had the chance to talk to them at length during the movie nights. Among them also was a very familiar fear that I just would not fit in. I weighed up the prospects and decided to give the discord server the benefit of the doubt – I messaged Pseuds asking for the link to the chat. Upon joining I found that it was one of the most inclusive and safe environments that I have ever been involved in.
It is partly because of Bec that I am studying at ANU now. For most of 2016, I did not have a clear idea of what academic avenues I wanted to pursue. Midway through the year I found that I was drawn by the prospect of studying archaeology. This, combined with the possibility of meeting up with Bec, prompted me to make the long drive up to Canberra for the ANU’s Open Day in August.
Bec: My experience with the discord server was much the same. It has become such an important part of my life; it is an incredible reassurance and joy to have these people that I hold so dear just a message away. Nai is a an amazing friend, always ready with encouragement and support. She is part of a circle of people around me who have pushed me to indulge my creativity and has come to be a sounding board for my ideas. We have both built friendships with some truly delightful people over the internet, and I am constantly in awe of the amazing support networks they provide us with.
* These are nicknames derived from screen names and not the individual’s’ real names.