Behind the Screens

Carter Jones, Reporter

One of the first rules we learn as vulnerable little children is, “Don’t talk to strangers, and especially not online.” Who knew that one day, defying that rule would get me some of the best friends I’ve ever made.

I’ve always been a gamer boy at heart. I definitely cringe while saying that but it’s ultimately true. When I got an Xbox 360 for my birthday as a child, I was pleasantly astounded to say the least. I threw my arms around my parents and showed my gift to all my friends who were happy that I finally had my own so that I could play with them for longer periods of time without having to switch off with my siblings.

I had the console set up in my bedroom from the help of my step-dad. We created my account and soon enough, I was adding my friends to my friends list. That friends list of mine after time grew to the max number of 100 friends, the majority of whom I did not know in real life. 

One day I stumbled upon a server on one of my favorite games, “Minecraft.” The server was quite popular with only a spot left for one lucky person to join. I was determined to take that last spot out of curiosity to see why the server had become so popular. I joined and soon enough I got a chat invite from the host of the game. Back then, me joining chats full of people I didn’t know was equivalent to social suicide because of my very high prepubescent voice. Usually when I spoke one word, older teens would immediately consume their microphones in their mouth to produce an ear shattering verbal attack calling me a “squeaker” or a “girl.”

I hesitantly joined this chat and was shocked to hear a very strangely familiar voice. My first thought was that this chat contained the person who played the main character on my favorite YouTube skit series who had a very unique voice, but after some joking around I found out his name was actually Josh. 

Josh and I would go on to have a roller coaster like friendship that would last 7 years and counting. We shared big moments together. He would tell me about his repetitive failing relationships, He was the second person I ever came out to, and we would video chat every New Year’s Eve and celebrate twice because of the fact that he lived in Washington D.C. and I lived in Kansas.

After years and years, we always talked about what it would be like to actually meet each other but we never thought it would actually happen, until one day I told him I was heading to D.C. with my school. We joked about actually meeting each other and just laughed off the idea. 

After months of anticipation for the trip, we got on our flight to D.C. and made some great memories on just the first day. I posted a picture of our adventures to social media and Josh texted me straight away saying that we should actually meet up for real. I told him we wouldn’t have much luck because of the fact that I had to stay with my class. He told me he could just meet me wherever I was when I was free.

It came around lunchtime and I was in line to order at a salad restaurant when I texted him that I was free and where I was. I had no idea what to expect, “Will I get kidnapped?” “What if he’s a catfish?” “He is either my real best friend or a really dedicated pedophile.” The nervous thoughts ran through my head until I strolled out of the restaurant 15 minutes later only to come face to face with the guy I’ve been best friends with online for 7 years. This time our interaction wasn’t over a screen, he was standing right in front of me which was different than what I was used to.

“You’re taller than me,” was the first thing he said to me. I laughed and we hugged. This was a moment that I never thought would happen, and it was definitely  happening. It was one of the best moments of the trip and one I will remember for the rest of my life. So sometimes, it’s okay to talk to strangers on the internet. Just make sure they’re real before you meet them outside a salad restaurant.