A few years ago I wound up talking to someone in a FB group for a game I played regularly. It was an innocent message asking for pointers about some stuff because he saw me posting all the time. And I won’t lie my first thought was “oh god it’s some creep that’s going to hit on me.”
Well it turned out to be a fourteen-year-old kid. We wound up talking semi-regularly and finally started talking about non-game stuff. He didn’t have friends. He didn’t have a girlfriend. He felt like a failure because of both those things and was really down on himself. He started asking me for advice about general life things. And at one point we had some conversation (I don’t even recall what about) wherein I said, “Y’know it might be better to get that advice from your folks.”
That turned into him telling me that his parents are busy with their careers (both doctors) and that they don’t really take much notice of him. Obviously I might be getting a skewed view of this story but it sounded like he was basically being raised by the Internet. So I said, “Well if you need advice or something feel free to ask and I’ll do my best.”
That was seven years ago. We’ve gotten to be pretty good friends. My husband and I joke about him being my Internet son. I cheered him on when he was finally going to ask a girl out and then sat up with him on Discord till the wee hours of the morning while he agonized over her rejection. I advised him against pestering her more and talked him through stuff like taking the high road and consent because I had no idea if he was getting this information anywhere else. I made suggestions about where he could make friends when he went off to college. I listened patiently to his roommate horror stories. I helped him figure out who to talk to about a problem professor and edited his first resume for him.
Well here we are now. Still no girlfriend but there’s nothing wrong with that. He made friends. And he just found out he got accepted to his masters program. And I am SO goddamn proud of him I’m tearing up just thinking about it. But, y’know I can’t tell people at work, “Hey this kid I have no biological attachment to but that I kind of internet parented got accepted into a really prestigious masters program and he’s turning into an awesome well-rounded adult. Here let me show you graduation pics.” Kiddo you’re awesome. I wish you’d been our son TBH or that if we’d been able to have kids they would’ve been like you. Your Internet mom is proud of you and cheering you on.