Two teenage girls — one from Nevada and one from Zachary, La. — have forged an unlikely friendship.
Unlikely first, because they live almost 1,000 miles apart, and second, because they got to know each other through the modern connector called Instagram, a form of social media that most parents, including theirs, warn children to be very careful when using, especially when it comes to strangers.
After getting lectures when their parents did finally find out, the girls — Nicole MacVey, 14, of Nevada, and Chelley Bauer, 16, of Zachary — were allowed to continue their friendship, which started back in November 0f 2014.
“There’s an explore page where you can find different profiles,” Bauer explained. MacVey said the Instagram program keeps track of all the things people like and then shows you people with similar interests. Bauer and MacVey had many similarities, but eventually, they started talking because they both loved watching people play Minecraft, a video game, on YouTube.
“Nicole started by commenting on my account and she ‘followed’ me,” Bauer said. That led to many conversations between the two about common interests, via Instagram.
For parents who advise their children not to get into conversations with people they don’t know, this would have been concerning at the time, if either set of parents had known right away.
MacVey’s mother, Marylin Mosinski, said she’s warned her kids about the dangers that are lurking online. “People aren’t always who they say they are. This could have been a ‘creep-a-zoid’ for all we knew,” she said.
Bauer’s parents felt the same, and her mother, Anissa, who is a school teacher, wasn’t real happy when she found out about the friendship a month or so after it started. “She gave me a lecture, like not to say last names and to be sure this person is real,” Bauer said.
In their defense, Bauer and MacVey said they had listened to their parents and they were very careful as they started communicating back and forth. Said Bauer, “We never revealed where we lived, or our last names or really personal information like that. We were both being careful.”
What they did do is talk about Mindcraft and eventually about their days in school.
“At first I was like, wait, am I really talking to this person this much, because we became good friends and were talking every single day,” MacVey said.
MacVey felt her mother, being overly cautious about such things, would pull the plug on the friendship, so it was almost five months after it started before she confessed to her mother.
“At first, I was really upset,” Mosinski said. But then, she said, after seeing for herself, through FaceTime, that Chelley was a teenage girl, she realized that the friendship was helping her daughter through many things.
By midway through 2015, the two girls wanted to meet, so they looked for places that would be about half-way for both of them. The Bauers had relatives in Springfield, Mo., so they decided that would be a good place to take a trip, and they reached out to see if Mosinski was willing to do that. It was Mosinski and her daughter, and Bauer and her parents, both her mom and her dad, Jeff.
“We booked adjoining motel rooms and spent about three days together,” Mosinski said. “They had a marvelous time.”
This year, Mosinski offered to pay half the airfare to bring Bauer up to Iowa, where she could spend a little time in Nevada, and also travel with MacVey’s family on a vacation to South Dakota. It worked out, and the group returned from vacation — where they saw Black Elk Peak, Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands and hiked a lot — last week.
Bauer got to spend a few more days with MacVey in Nevada before she would return to Louisiana. She enjoyed Starbuck’s in Nevada the most.
When the two friends are together, you’d never know they’ve spent less than a month actually being physically in the same place. Mosinski said they are so much alike, having the same philosophies about life and the same morals. “They talk and giggle about normal teen stuff.”
The girls say they will always be friends. “We’ve been through a lot together,” Bauer said. “She’s helped me and I’ve helped her through some things.”
MacVey said they have a whole bucket list of things they want to do together in years to come.
They don’t connect through Instagram as much as they used to. These “modern-day pen pals” now use texting and “facetiming” to communicate more.
And they both insist that they’re still really careful kids about their online presence. They want other kids to practice caution too, and be very careful not to give a lot of details and specific information to anyone about yourself until you fully know who you are talking to.
Their friendship hasn’t lightened Mosinski’s feelings about online security, but she said it has made her realize something important. “The Internet makes everything different; it opens up the world. And while their are predators and bad things out there, I realize now that it can also be positive.”