I spoke recently to a friend who was going through an extremely trying time in her life. I felt (and feel) bad for her beyond my ability to express.
Online friends are real friends, I truly believe that. Confronted with an online friend in a heart-rending situation, however, the only options we can often offer them in the way of immediate comfort are in the “emoji” family: hearts, virtual hugs, gifs, and so on. These things are meaningful. However, when the situation is bad enough, sending them the same sad face you sent when they said they dropped their ice cream cone just seems wrong, somehow.
In real life, I’m not exactly the kind of person that people characterize as a “hugger”. Nevertheless, I have always (or at least since my teen years) been attracted to or attracted grieving people. I’m not entirely sure why. I hate parties and never was great at small talk; nevertheless, in a room full of revelers, I have for years been able to identify the other kindred spirits in the room who don’t belong.
Grief is a paradox in that it is completely individual, isolating the people who feel it, while simultaneously universal, in that everyone goes through it. We all despair in hard times; one element of that is the certainty that no one truly knows how we feel. But then, often, we find that people will do what they can for the grieving, the hurting, the lost. In the same way that “haters gonna hate,” “friends are gonna friend”.
So let them.
We all need friends, all the real friends we can get; and online friends are real friends.