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4 awesome ‘how we met’ friendship stories that will inspire you to get online.

Friends can come from anywhere, especially the vast expanses of the internet.

4 awesome ‘how we met’ friendship stories that will inspire you to get online.
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"How'd you two meet?"

Photo by Don LaVange/Flickr.

It's the quintessential question couples and longtime friends always get asked. Today, however, there's one answer that's becoming particularly common: "Actually, we met online."


More and more people, especially from younger generations, are getting to know each other via online avenues first rather than in real life. They might spend an inordinate amount of time on their computers and phones, but at least finding a true friend is one great thing that can come out of it.  

Due to its uncanny ability to connect anyone anywhere, the internet has become a healthy petri dish in which friendships often blossom.

According to recent Pew Research poll, 57% of teens have made new friends online. But these friendships don’t just stay online. Many teens decide to set up real-life meetings with their online friends. According to a BBC survey, 1 in 3 teens who have made a friend online will eventually meet that person face-to-face.

Unfortunately this gregariousness isn't universal. Millennials, for example, are often called the loneliest generation because many let technology isolate them rather than connect them to others.

There are some millennials, however, who've overcome the initial awkwardness of meeting online friends in person and created great, long-lasting friendships as a result.

Here are four examples of unique friendships that began online and eventually made it into three dimensions.

Business partners before friends.

So grateful for my sister, work-wife, friend and the most talented coach I've ever known - @coachjennie

A post shared by Annie Passanisi (@nibsieruggles) on

Annie P. Ruggles and Jennie Mustafa-Julock met on Twitter over six years ago. "I don't know if I was interviewing people or she was, but we were both new [entrepreneurial] coaches looking for good colleagues," Ruggles explains in a Facebook message. "One of us responded to a tweet."

"We tweeted back and forth and decided to hop on one Skype call to get to know one another," Mustafa-Julock writes, piggy-backing on Ruggles' comment in the same Facebook message.

That was it. The two women realized pretty much immediately they were meant to be friends — and, soon after, business partners.

"Work love at first Skype," Ruggles exclaims.

The two created a company, Hungry Entrepreneurs — a support system for small-business runners looking for coaching and collaboration. They ran the whole thing via Skype and phone. They even wrote two Amazon best-sellers together.

"We ran a business together for two years before we ever met in person," writes Mustafa-Julock.

After two years, the business fizzled out for a number of reasons — Mustafa-Julock's writing career was taking off and Ruggles was about to get married. But the two stayed close, and, thanks to Mustafa-Julock's book tour, they finally got to meet in person.

When they met, "I think we hugged for like 12 minutes," Ruggles recalls. "So now it's been 6 years. We talk everyday. Sometimes all damn day."

High school Rufus Wainwright fans.

Tim and Maria with their respective cats. Photos by Tim Swanger and Maria MaKenna, used with permission.

Tim Swanger and Maria MaKenna met online 12 years ago when they were in high school, through a slightly older-school technology: an online message board designed to bring fans of Rufus Wainwright together.

"It became, for me, a place to 'meet' like-minded people and negotiate the troubled waters of adolescence when I was surrounded in the physical world by people who didn't seem much like me," Swanger explains in an email.

After meeting on the message board, the two began talking regularly online and on the phone. "We bonded over failed relationships, common politics, and shared nerdiness," Swanger recounts. This went on for years before they met in person at a play in which MaKenna was performing.

"Maria in-the-flesh was not fundamentally different from her online persona. Hanging out together was pretty much just an extension of that."

"I will add that Tim's love of Rufus Wainwright faded, but mine did not," McKenna adds.

Cancer survivor support.

Jason and Jen. Photo by Jason Nellis, used with permission

Jason Nellis and Jen Fox both had cancer in their 20s. Five years ago, after Nellis was already in remission, he saw Fox's post on Tumblr about being in the midst of treatment, so he reached out to say hello. They didn't know each other previously, but Nellis felt connected to Jen because of their shared experience.

"I saw someone going through a really shit time in their life and I wanted to offer a friendly voice," Nellis writes in a Facebook message.

They began talking about their respective experiences with cancer, and, over time, less serious stuff. Eventually they became friends. It wasn't until Fox got into George Washington University, years after they first connected online, that the two decided to meet.

"Once Jen and I met in person and had the first few minutes of 'are you a real person or did I get catfished' we both became fast IRL friends," recounts Jason. "We went to Buttercream Bakeshop in D.C. And made it a weekly ritual."

New mom in town.

Carol B. and her baby Helen. Photo by Carol B., used with permission.

Carol B. recently moved to Pleasantville, New York, with her husband, and now they have a baby girl. Since she didn't really know anyone who lived in the area, she decided to use Facebook to try to find a few local moms who might be willing to let her and her baby into their circle.

"I searched 'Pleasantville' and 'moms,' and found a Facebook moms group right away," Carol writes in a Facebook message. "I introduced myself on the group page and got a lot of nice responses and welcomes, including an invite to join a separate 'playdate' page."

Soon after she initially reached out, she put herself out there even more. "I saw a post about a 'mom's night out' and I went for it, and met a lot of nice women. After that, I started going to different mom meet-ups with the baby, and before I knew it I suddenly knew a bunch of my neighbors."

Lasting connections can be formed all sorts of ways. In an age when technology is a staple of our lives, its hand in our relationships only makes sense.

Whether you're actively seeking a friend or not, there's no telling what sparks may fly when you put yourself out there in the digital world. It's easier now than it ever has been to strike up a friendship — across countries, cultures, and even political divides.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken, and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-and-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term stupid isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he belives applies to everyone.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."