Making Close Friends Through Vulnerability

By Catherine MigelApril 29, 2024

As a millennial who grew up during the inception of MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, I know I am supposed to say that social media is “bad.” It can create unrealistic expectations in all of us, there is an addictive nature, it encourages people to compare themselves to everyone, and it creates a sense of being “not enough.” I have seen the negative sides in play in varying degrees within all of these spaces.

However, there is a small section of the social media space that has quite literally saved my life.

It is a place where I learned the most rewarding thing is to be my most authentic self… tears, fears, and insecurities included. My safe social media space is my Instagram Close Friends Stories. That little green-outlined bubble at the top of my Instagram feed is filled with people who have become closer to me than I thought possible.

Like so many of us during 2020, I was feeling alone and isolated in the small suburban life that I had settled into without many friends nearby. It was during this time, navigating a fog of loneliness and anxiety, that I began to post things to my Instagram stories using the “Close Friends” option.

At first, it was innocent fun that I thought no one would really see or care about. But eventually, the more I posted, the more people began to engage with it. Despite all of the negatives, social media was filling a void and making me feel less alone in an increasingly dark and isolated world.

I then had this somewhat radical idea: What if I admit that I am struggling? What if I share something honest? What if instead of trying to be funny all the time, I talk about how sometimes life is not silliness and laughter? What if I use this newfound community for something deeper? 

I started to share with my “Close Friends” on Instagram that I was stressed and sad. I admitted that I was struggling and that I was feeling insecure. Within minutes, messages were pouring in. Friends of mine that I hadn’t spoken to in months. Friends that I went to high school with. Former co-workers I had lost touch with. Messages like: “Thank you for sharing, I know how you feel” or “I’ve been there” came through. Friends commiserating with me. Friends reconnecting and opening the door to more meaningful conversations. Friends asking how they could support me, even from a distance.

A community emerged in the unlikely cyberspace of people who watched my Instagram stories. The Close Friends soon filled with people who knew me in real life or people whom I just had connected with online and I somehow felt I could be vulnerable with. When I needed dating advice, when my mom was in the hospital and I had no other outlet to vent, when I felt anxious, when I felt alone—I would open up to my new community.

The Close Friends were there to cheer me on. They would offer advice if warranted. They would pick me up when I was feeling defeated. They would encourage me to cry on their virtual shoulders. They made me feel heard. They rallied around me. They let me be truthful, and for that, I am forever grateful.

I have received messages from people saying they admire how honest I can be. Which is odd when I think about it because what are these virtual spaces if not a representation of who we are at a given moment? Maybe those moments are messy and sad, and that’s okay. As I have learned: there are people who will be there to pick you up, support you, and cheer you on when you need it most.

I still think social media has its bad sides. It can be a tool used to bring people down and birth insecurities. It creates an oddly competitive environment. People can choose to hide behind anonymity and cruel words. People can pretend that their lives are glamorous and flawless when in reality they too might be struggling.

But, what if we decided to be authentic with our followers—”Close Friends” or not?

What if we posted our insecurities and fears? What if we were vulnerable? Maybe, as I have found, our social media spaces can be used for good. Maybe they can bring people together and be catalysts for deeper connections. Maybe a silly green bubble can hold a space where we feel protected and supported and loved.

A beneficial thing I have learned with the Close Friends option is that you can curate who sees those particular stories. You can choose to let people in that you feel comfortable with. As I know from experience, there might be people within our social circles who we do not always feel safe being our authentic selves around, for a variety of reasons. In these cases, adjusting who our audience is or posting something anonymously on another social media space can be a stepping stone. It can be the connection that leads us into realizing that our feelings are shared or understood by others and that we don’t have to go through life independently.

I have managed to form a little community for myself, a community that has guided me through dark times and happy times. It has led to surprising friendships. It has shown me I am not alone. It has given me the courage and safety to be myself.

So, to my Close Friends, thank you for being my community. Thank you for listening and loving me, despite the occasional mess. Thank you for making me feel close despite distance and isolation. I wish everyone could find the courage to create their own space—whether that is in the virtual world or within an in-person space—where you can be honest and authentic. Take a step—in some format to put yourself out there without a filter—even if it is anonymous to start. Speak whatever your truth might be. Maybe put it on the Close Friends, you never know who will end up becoming closer than you ever thought possible.

People need other people. You are not weak for wanting or needing support. If you’re seeking professional help, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor. If it’s encouragement or a listening ear that you need, email our team at [email protected].

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Comments (4)

  1. Derrick R Kearney

    Truly inspiring

    Reply  |  
  2. Zion Counseling Center

    What a beautifully honest reflection on the power of social media’s “Close Friends” feature! It’s refreshing to hear a perspective that acknowledges both the pitfalls and the profound potential for connection within these digital spaces. Your journey from casual sharing to vulnerability and deeper connections is truly inspiring. It’s a testament to the fact that amidst the curated feeds and highlight reels, there exists a space where authenticity thrives, where support flows freely, and where friendships deepen beyond the surface level. Your story serves as a reminder that while social media can often amplify feelings of isolation, it also has the capacity to bridge distances and create communities that uplift and sustain us through life’s ups and downs. Thank you for sharing your experience—it’s a reminder to us all that being genuine in our online interactions can lead to meaningful connections that transcend the digital realm.

    Reply  |  
  3. Ying

    How to be volunteer

    Reply  |  
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