How I Made Friends in the Virtual Age

By Richard L. Figueroa
Staff Reporter

John Hidalgo, Chris McMullen, Richard L. Figueroa (Me), Marc Rosano (Left to right). Picture by Richard L. Figueroa

In Nov. 2015, “Call of Duty: Black Ops III” was released. As a die-hard “Call of Duty” fan, I had to buy it. All month long, I played it for hours. Several times a week, I would join my friend Luis Turcios’ group voice chat on my PlayStation 4. Turcios was an old high school friend whom I would often chat with while we played “Call of Duty” together.

On one occasion, I joined his chat and, while putting my headset on, I saw that there was someone new in the group. PS4 user Badmarc777 said, “Hey Luis whos this?” Turcios went on to tell him about who I was and how we used to go to high school together.

Badmarc777, real name is Marc Rosano, 19, is from Suffolk County, NY. Rosano and I began to play “Call of Duty” often. We would stay up late until about 4 a.m. He was really competitive and I was more of a relaxed player, who just played for fun. The voice chats were always fun to be in as we would share laughs all the time. We would play jokes on each other in-game even though we were teammates by shooting at each other in the game. Rosano even made me buy other games so we could have more playtime together, and we also began playing “Rocket League.”

Shortly after our newfound online friendship, Rosano introduced me to two of his friends. First, I met Loudbean, John Hidalgo, who went to Rosano’s high school. He was followed by Littleman1331, Chris McMullen, who is another one of his close friends. We hit it off well enough that when Rosano wasn’t online, I would play with them. We’d play the same old games, which got boring after a while. So, we didn’t get online as much until late Oct. when “Battlefield” was released. The boys were back online, and long nights of laughs resumed.

That same year, after nearly a year of being friends, I added them on Facebook and Snapchat. We even exchanged phone numbers, and I actually considered them my friends. We grew closer than ever as we created group chats on iMessage and Snapchat. I would share my personal problems with them as I did with my actual best friends here in Chicago. As friends would do, we would look to each other for advice. Conversations about how we should meet would come up often. They would tell me they would like to come to Chicago and meet me in person. I would tell them I would like to do the same as I always wanted to visit New York City.

2017 and 2018 flew by and as I grew older, responsibilities did not allow us to play as much nor to game all night. The thing is, we never lost contact. We would always talk in the group chat. The last game we all got to play together and have some laughs like back in the day was “Red Dead Redemption 2” in the late months of 2018.

That Dec., they Facetimed me as they were hanging out together. We started talking about what was new. As I was on my computer, I decided to take a look at some flights to New York City. I told them, “Boys, I did it. I bought my ticket for spring break of 2019.” I was finally going to meet my online friends. I was excited and they thought it was a joke.

Spring break comes around and I fly out to New York City. One would think I felt nervous about meeting strangers who I have never met in person before but when McMullen picked me up from the airport, it felt like a longtime friend picking me up. It wasn’t awkward or anything. He drove us back to the New York suburb they lived in to pick up Rosano and Hidalgo and take a train to the city.

We picked up Rosano and as he came out of his house, approaching the car, he said, “Bro, this is so unreal. Am I dreaming?”

I assured him he wasn’t and greeted him. We went to go grab breakfast as we waited on Hidalgo. He joined us after we got breakfast and headed out to the city. We spent that whole day together and at the end of the night, they went home. For the following three days, they would come to the city and join me.

We may have our faces buried in our phone and tv screens, but it is now possible to reach out and make connections, not only across the country, but all across the world. Within the next year, they’ll come visit me here in Chicago. This time, I’ll get to show them around my city.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, arts and entertainment, Feature, Feature, Recent Posts, Recent Stories

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