Ina and I were both students at the Open University doing an online Bachelor Degree in Psychology in 2011, and since then we have remained in contact. I have recently come to see her in person and spend some time here in Germany to meet her and her family. Here is a shared blog of our friendship over the years via the email and the What’s Up phone app.
Online study groups
Ina: During the study years it difficult to keep up with the workload and we created a study group to discuss the chapters we had to read to understand better.
Aushra: Studying online was a very lonely experience and I tried to connect with other students. I really enjoyed the readings but wanted to talk about these topics with people who also enjoyed them. One of these people from the study group was Ina.
How did you keep in touch and how often
Ina: First we kept in touch by email but on rare occasions. At some point I remember suggesting Aushra to get the What’s Up app and but she didn’t use it then. I thought it’s too bad because it would make communication much easier in particular because we were in such different time zones. Over time our communication became more frequent.
Aushra: At that time I didn’t use an iPhone and I was too busy with everything in my life. Emailing was the best option but it was very slow and quite impersonal, I must admit. I think what really helped communication was not taking anything for granted. For example not assuming that the other person has the same values (although we discovered we had similar ones) or even the same understanding of concepts such as friendship.
Finding motivation to keep in touch for over 7 years
Ina: It was never boring because we had similar interests and topics to talk about, things to share of our daily lives. Even though it was virtual communication I always had a sense a true and real relationship – I knew there was a real person on the other side.
Aushra: Over time, we experienced many things in our personal lives some that were extremely challenging. For me, I could easily say that 2018 was one of the hardest years of my life. I had to make a difficult decision that significantly impacted my future and how I understand life. Knowing that Ina lives a world away (in Germany, while I lived in Australia) meant that I could confide to her my deepest thoughts and experiences. She was very open and willing to be a part of my life.
Self-knowledge: voice messages as a means to reflection
Ina: Regular messaging reminds me in a way of watching a soap opera. Some series are more interesting, others less, some are more dramatic others more peaceful, but all add up to one story. Via voice messages, I had to express my thoughts with more clarity than I would in a real-life situation. I was able to share my own life experiences and hear Aushra’s response to my story too.
Aushra: Since starting using What’s Up, I realised that it was similar to writing a journal. It was a helpful way to reflect about what was going on in my life out loud but also knowing that someone hears me.
First impressions of meeting in person
Ina: At first I was concerned if I would recognise Aushra, but when I saw her stepping out of the bus I knew it was her because of her big curly hair. And I felt relieved. I also thought that maybe there might be a small possibility that she would not show up at all or that she may be a scam (just pretending to want to meet but really just playing a game).
Aushra: Seeing Ina at the bus stop was a very different from what I expected. I recognised her right away but was surprised by a lot of positive energy and brightness not only from the inside but visible outside though her white, Nordic appearance.
How do you think this online friendship is different from a real in person friendship?
Ina: In real life, people share experiences that form the basis for predicting the future behaviour of a person. So being online it is harder because I don’t know how the person would react in reality. Moreover, I cannot read her energy and emotion.
Aushra: I completely agree and also having awareness of the degree of truthfulness the person has toward me. I think it is easier to fake a voice than an emotion.
About the future
Ina: I can imagine meeting Aushra again sometime in my life. I hope we can explore another country and make some joined memories.
Aushra: I have wanted to meet Ina since a long time ago, I am so glad that our friendship endured over the years and I am sure we will have opportunities to meet again in Australia, in Europe or maybe in Nepal! But for now, we still have the modern technologies to keep us connected.