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Can Web Chat Make a Friendship?

With the development of time, the internet has become an important means of communication. Online chatting can expand the scope of social interaction and exchange a variety of different experiences and knowledge.

For a long time, I was obsessed with posting personal information on the internet. Such as photos for what I made for dinner, what cake I  baked, where I went and what activities I participated in. 

I have met some interesting friends on the internet, heard some good and tough life experiences, and of course, I have also met some people who use others’ photos as avatars to to boost their friend count.

Now, social media risks affect how I choose to use it. I personally use social media as another form of Google, even though I feel social media reduces the geographical distance between people. 

I’m a mild outside but wild inside person, so I’m not used to chatting with strangers online. This is why, although I have chatted some with Yanfei Lu online for two years using the social media platform WeChat, we have never met each other.

I read Lu’s article in the Clark Indy magazine last year.  From her name, I guessed she also came from China and I was curious about how an English-as-a-second-language person could be a journalist and write the news. But we did not meet in person until the afternoon of Jan. 6, when she walked into the Indy newsroom. After I got her affirmative answer that she was from China, we started to communicate in Mandarin.

We talked a lot about our respective lives, future plans and also talked about her reporter experiences. We found out both of us randomly chose the journalism class and have the same business administration major. 

Because we applied for the same major and are applying for WSU Vancouver, we decided to add WeChat, a Chinese multi-purpose messaging, social media and mobile payment app. 

When we tried to scan the WeChat code, we were surprised that we were already friends online. 

The story goes back to two years ago. We became online friends on Feb. 18, 2018, via a WeChat group. At that time, I consulted the WeChat group and texted other friends to see if anyone had a familiar lawyer to help with a legal issue that needed to be solved urgently.

Lu accepted my online friend request on WeChat for details and more information. Before we started to talk, I got a lawyer’s contact through a friend’s text message. So, we did not make a phone call.

Even so, we still sent online greeting cards every Thanksgiving, Christmas and Chinese New Year to send best wishes and happiness and health to each other.

For these two years, we did not meet or make phone calls, but we were like strange and familiar friends.  After we met, we talked more closely and often.

Some people say you can easily make friends online and meet any strangers through up to six people. The sales incentives idea of the six layers pyramid selling is based on this principle.

Although there are potential technological benefits of making online friends, I believe the traditional advantages of meeting face‐to‐face can reinforce existing online friends.

Last year, the information management class research project showed me that social workers have more careers available and would get higher pay in the future. So, I started to take classes at the Clark campus more than classes online, and I also started to meet a lot of classmates.

Jody Shulnak, associate director of International Programs at Clark College, said social media is part of Clark’s international students’ communication tool for them to connect with their foreign country parents and friends.

But international students use different social media platforms than U.S. students, such as Facebook.

“I feel like for students here, nothing is the same as WeChat is in China,” Shulnak said. “Chinese use WeChat and everything is on WeChat in a very significant way.”

She said many students who stay at home can connect through social media, like WeChat, and Facebook can video chat.

“We can make the world smaller, can stay in touch for free, even so far away,” Shulnak said. “I think it does play a very valuable part.”

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