[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to have author Marisa Kanter posting on the site today. She’s talking all things internet friendships. Take it away, Marisa!]
I spend a lot of time on the internet.
I mean, we all spend a lot of time on the internet, but I spend a lot of time on the internet. Can it be a trash fire here? Absolutely. Do I open Twitter, see the trending topics of doom and despair, and say to myself, “Nope, not today?” At least once a week. But in my experience, the internet has giveth far more than it has taketh. Without the internet, some of the closest friendships in my life would not be possible, friendships that inspired my debut novel, What I Like About You.
Growing up, I found solace in two things: the YA books on my shelves and the community online. I came of age online in the early 2010s, during the era of blogs ending in “blogspot.com.” Through fandom, blogging, and online writing forums, I found other teens who loved words as much as I did. Our friendships started out over hours-long DMs about our favorite books, but it soon became about more than books. We shared crushes, comforted each other through friendship breakups, picked out prom dresses, questioned our sexualities, and celebrated life milestones.
What I Like About You is a love letter to these friendships that formed on the internet, but also an exploration of how the internet has changed our relationship with our own identities. This naturally evolved into a rom-com that is a love triangle between a girl, her online best friend, and her online persona. In the “meet-cute,” Halle, the protagonist, has moved to a new town and runs into Nash, her online best friend, for the first time. She immediately knows it’s him, but he has no clue it’s her. In a moment of panic (because anxiety!), Halle decides protecting their friendship online is worth the potential awkwardness of seeing him every day IRL. Online, as her alter-ego Kels, Halle feels so much cooler and more confident… so obviously the reality that is her socially anxious self will ruin everything.
As a teen, I wondered what it would be like to meet my internet friends in person. Most of the time I was torn. What if the effortlessness only exists in texts? I’d probably overthink everything I said, which would lead to long lapses of silence, which would result in a friendship lost. Teen me, much like Halle, believed that internet friendships were meant to only exist online. More than that, I believed the version of myself capable of having such close and meaningful friendships only existed online.
Teen me, much like Halle, was wrong.
As an adult, I’ve traveled across the country—and the world—to have my own series of friendship meet-cutes. In college, I hopped on a train from London to Leeds to stay the night with a critique partner I met in middle school. Together, we toured really old, really fancy estates, and I learned that English people do, in fact, set a kettle for tea on the stove the moment they enter their homes. Since my first experience meeting an internet friend went well, I did it again. The second time, I experienced my first Black Tap milkshake (Google it! It’s truly an experience!) with a blogging friend with whom I shared a passion for competitive dancing and a mutual appreciation for the love interests in Sarah Dessen books.
Thanks to the internet, it is so much easier to find your people. Scrolling through my phone, I find that most of the friends I can’t go more than twenty-four hours without texting are connections that began online.
And yet, every time I am about to meet up with someone for the first time, I feel exactly like Halle does when she runs into Nash for the first time, initial butterflies and all. What if it’s not the same? I get so worked up and anxious, but meeting people in person for the first time has always proven to be been a wonderful, validating experience. It’s never awkward like I build it up in my head to be, I think because it’s never been about being cooler or more approachable online; it’s been about shared interests, about never feeling too insecure to gush for hundreds of words about my favorite book, about finding people who get me.
I realized that at some point, I stopped thinking of the people I met online as internet friends and started thinking of them as my friends. Period.
About the Author:
Marisa Kanter has worked in publicity for major publishers and covered YA books for MTV. Currently, she works in sales, on the distribution side of the publishing industry. She can often be found searching for the best iced chai in NYC, or reading on the 3 train. What I Like About You is her first novel. Follow her at marisakanter.com
What I Like About You by Marisa Kanter, out now!
Is it still a love triangle if there are only two people in it?
Online, seventeen-year-old bookworm Halle Levitt is Kels, the enigmatic creator of One True Pastry (OTP, for short)—a beloved book blog and bookstagram account that pairs cupcakes with new releases. As Kels, free from the social anxiety that plagues her in real life, she has a platform and all the perks of fandom at her fingertips—including an online best friend in Nash, the budding graphic novelist she adores.
Life online is easy. That is, until she runs into Nash. Real, human, not-behind-a-screen Nash.
Nash, with his adorable glasses and too-long hair, standing in the library of the tiny, middle-of-nowhere town where Halle will be spending senior year with her grandfather while her filmmaker parents are out of the country. Seized by fear, Halle hides her identity. There’s no way she can measure up to Kels, and she doesn’t want anyone to link her blog to her parents’ fame when it’s always been solely hers.
But real life won’t let online life be.
Nash is everywhere—in her classes, at the library, at synagogue for Friday night services. And as Halle gets closer to him and his group of friends, she finds herself developing real, meaningful relationships in person for the first time since creating her blog. But with a massive book convention on the horizon where she’s poised to make her first IRL appearance, Halle must reconcile her dual identities—because while she’s falling for Nash as Halle… he’s in love with Kels.