240 Characters to Make a Friend

I’m convinced everyone hates me.


It’s a thought that has repeated in my head since I was a kid. I never felt wanted, or cool, or like what I had to say mattered to… anyone. I would make friends and then that friendship would fizzle out after a few years. It was like I became too much, too attached, too me.


I would put up walls. I didn’t want to let people in. I prided myself on having friends of quality rather than quantity. I was happy with my two friends from high school (who I really should text more often. Sorry, Jessica and Megs!). I went to prom with them, took day-trips to Dallas, and spent many nights getting half-off shakes at Sonic with them. But despite all of that, I was lonely. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a product of my mental illness and inability to confide in the people closest to me.


When I went off to college I soon found myself surrounded by other uncertain people. We fed off each other’s insecurities, creating a toxic echo chamber. We all tried to one-up each other, drinking Jack and smoking weed in a small dorm room. Judging everyone until we all hated each other and ourselves.

Art by Maddy Sutka

Social media was my mask. I was posting more, trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I was great! I posted travel photos to make myself seem interesting and Photoshopped myself to hide my insecurities. I was strangely encouraged by weird men simping after me in the comments. They made me feel like I could be liked by others in a time I felt so terribly unlikable. But it was all temporary. I still wasn’t getting the intimate human connection I desperately wanted, and I felt more lonely than ever.


When I transferred to a new college five states away, I looked at it as a fresh start. But it was hard. In my first year there, I made practically no friends. Then, the friends I did make ended up hurting me (don’t trust the Geminis, y’all). Once again, I felt so unlikable. But, instead of running to Instagram, I ran to Twitter.


I started posting bad jokes, dumb thoughts, anything that I hoped someone might find funny. I became obsessed, trying to post every day, just to get a little dopamine boost when a mutual would like my silly little Tweets.


I don’t know if it was Twitter, if I was gaining my confidence back, or if I was just starting to get my footing, but I was finding friends. My senior year of college I actually felt popular. This was weird for me. I wasn’t used to people knowing who I was. But with this, came the realization that me being friendless for most of my life wasn’t on other people. A lot had to do with me.


The most common thing I’m told after I make it to “friend territory” with someone new is “I always wanted to get to know you, but you intimidated me.” It’s something I’m constantly aware of. I come off as… intense. I don’t try to, it’s just the way I’m wired. My type-A insanity and unfortunate RBF means I often get labeled as a bitch. My personality is lost in everyone’s preconceived notions about me.


But I could change that online.


I dove harder into Twitter. In a way, I am able to use it to show the side of me that I wish was always apparent. The side that’s goofy and over-the-top in a fun way. The side that most don’t get to see until we’ve been friends for a year, and I’m texting them at 2 am about shipwreck stories and conspiracy theories. I don’t have a wall up online. I’m freer and looser and less scared of how I’m perceived, because, unlike real life, I have a delete button.


But part of me feels like my Twitter persona is an act. This is why, when the pandemic hit, and we all had to resort to the internet to stay connected, I got scared. I hid it behind snarky Tweets and messages of support to my mutuals. I started interacting more with people I knew from school but never actually talked to. I tried to become the person I was online because she was fun, easy-going, and less intense. She was likable in a way that I couldn’t be in real life.


She was who I always wanted to be.


But behind that personality was still me. Slightly insane, extremely organized, and a little unhinged. I was always texting my friends my Twitter drafts before I sent them, scared that I would post something that wasn’t funny or relatable and the gig would be up.


240 characters would taunt me every day, because to me, using them right or wrong was the difference between having friends and being all alone.


In retrospect, this is a ridiculous thought. And I’ve Tweeted many stupid and unfunny things (shout-out to the true ones who like them anyway). But it all felt so… big. My fears surrounding being unliked and alone manifested themselves into both my incessant need to use social media and my intense fear of it.

Art by Maddy Sutka

In reality, one of the best connections I made on Twitter happened because I (for once in my life) made the impulsive decision to comment on one of my mutual’s Tweets. And when they replied to me, it gave me the bravery I needed to invite them to a writing group via DM.


I honestly expected them to say no. But they replied within a minute, and before I knew it, I was part of their life.


We had only met once before the pandemic. A fleeting introduction at a crowded bar. But we didn’t know each other. But with the new time and freedom we had, because we were stuck at home, we were able to let our friendship grow in ways that weren’t possible before. We could have actual conversations about life, work, and our dreams. When it’s just two people staring at each other through a screen, it removes all other distractions. We could either sit in awkward silence or ask each other questions. It fast-tracked our friendship. Soon we invited our social circles to collide through group calls and texts. They invited one of their friends onto our FaceTime calls, and soon she and I were friends as well.


The three of us grew close because of art, but also because we were there for each other. I would stay on FaceTime for hours, working with them in the background, seeing their life in an intimate way. I saw how they talked to their roommates and family. I saw their body language when they would mute themselves to take another call. I saw their in-real-time reactions to texts and last-minute stress. We were there for each other through the loss of a mutual friend and became a support system for one another. We lived what felt like a whole lifetime together through an iPhone, and it bonded us.


My filtered Twitter persona led me to share my unfiltered life with them. And neither of them have blocked me (yet).

Art by Maddy Sutka

Not a week goes by where I don’t talk to either of them. I’ll get to see one of them in person (officially) in 2 months when I’m in LA. It’s both surreal and exciting. I still have to convince myself every day that the people in my life don’t hate me. I still have to fight my insecurities and work on not editing who I am online. But I’m trying to be me and embrace all that I am. If anything, I hate myself a little less, and I have to kind of thank Twitter for it. It’s weird to think that social media could have such a profound and positive impact on my life, but it did. I spent a year haunted by the potential 240 characters had, and it only took 30 for me to make a friend.


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