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Internet Connections: What Makes a Friendship Authentic?

Updated on March 16, 2016
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I have a B.A. in English with a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies. I've been a Goth since age fourteen, and a Pagan since age fifteen.

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Are the friends you make online real friends?

It's a question many think they know the answer to. Usually, their answer is, “Of course not!” As someone who has made far more friends online since she was a teenager, and still does as an adult, it has been frustrating when people I know in person respond negatively when I mention how I met someone online. It is even worse when I meet someone online, refer to them as my friend, and they insist that they are not my real friend.

I just finished watching a YouTube video on this very subject by Boyinaband aka Dave. He debunks the commonly used reasoning against internet friends compared to real-life friends, and why the reasons don't measure up. I love how he takes the typical arguments people, like myself, hear all of the time to devalue our friendships, and questions them in intelligent ways. I liked it so much that I thought I would write an article about it. Here are their arguments and Dave's responses in terms of online friendships:

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1. “You haven't even met them.”

This argument suggests that the inability to have physical contact means you can't have the same level of interaction as someone you hang out with in person. According to this argument, that would mean a friend you have hung out with is not your friend until physical contact has been made. Dave mocks this logic by showing you can hang out with a friend you have not yet physically touched; therefore, the overall meaning of friendship is the development of emotional connection based on conversation, not whether or not you can physically touch them.

2. “They might be a serial killer, rapist, pedophile.”

Dave explains how the belief that those we meet online will turn out to be criminals being a higher likeliness than those we meet in person is not dependent on how we met them. It is about how long we take to get to know someone in order to trust them. Furthermore, he explains how the best way to be sure someone is who they say they are, online, is to video-chat. Of course, if you ask me, it doesn't matter how you meet or necessarily how long you have known someone. Anyone can turn out to be someone else at any given moment; therefore, in any relationship, there is a false sense of security. So, those out there who think criticizing online relationships are superior because they have more face to face relationships are probably more insecure than they're admitting since most people with more online relationships are aware of the possibility, even if they don't come out and verbalize it.

3. “They're probably lying.”

This is similar to the previous excuse; however, Dave gives some interesting information about this concept. People are more likely to lie in person than online because it's typed and can usually be brought back. Meanwhile, in person, one's words cannot be brought back for evidence. Of course, liars exist, regardless, but as mentioned before there is still video-chatting to be sure who you're talking with, and being aware that liars exist in real-life, as well, should give some perspective on society in general.

On a side note, whenever this sort of thing is mentioned, I like to bring up how long my parents were married before my dad turned out to be an abuser. My parents met long before the internet became a thing and lived together. They were married for a decade. It wasn't until near the end of the ten years that he became violent. As I said, I am not one to believe anyone can be sure they truly know anyone, online or in person.

4. “Humans are social creatures.”

Choosing the internet to find companionship does not mean someone is not social. One does not have to be in person with someone in order to be social. Dave expresses how it does not mean the person does not want to spend time with that the other person. It just means they may not be able to afford to fly to where ever their friend is; therefore, the internet is their best means of connecting with this individual.

5. “They're not as good as real friends.”

Dave explains how being dependent on our town, school, work, or what have you, to find connections that fulfill us for a social life makes it unlikely we will find the right type of person or people. It means a lot less people to choose from, hoping that someone or some of them will understand us and the other way around. Meanwhile, we could go online, with millions of types of people to choose from, making it highly more likely we will find others like us.

When Dave points out the types of communities in which we live, and how we're limiting ourselves by finding friends only within that community by refusing to value friendships we find or could find online, I can relate. Although the town I grew up in is not small, and would not be considered to be a poorly educated area it is a predominantly white upper-middle-class area; therefore, the people are poorly educated when it comes to common sense. I have spoken many times of the racism and homophobia I was surrounded by. Finally, I began speaking out against it in the last years of High School, but even that was difficult as I was always a fairly quiet teenager in class—around my friends was a different story. As one can imagine, how can someone like myself relate to a town full of people like that?

Looking at all of these arguments, I can't help but wonder, again, about insecurities. In today's society, or, hell, any society, it seems that people are far too narcissistic to get to know themselves. They would rather see themselves above everyone else, learn nothing, give as little as possible to others, but continue seeing themselves in that special light; therefore, when they find out that people admit how hard it is to form connections with those in our town or even our state and therefore take the time to get to know someone online, these narcissists can't imagine spending so much time on someone other than themselves. So, how do they react? They see us as pathetic for admitting how things really are. They know how hard it is, but they don't want to face it and voice how lonely they truly feel or reach out to anyone. They would rather make us feel the way they feel. So, the next time someone tries to bring you down for having connections around the country or around the world because you haven't found those connections in your own town or state, know that those people are in denial about how alone they are, but you are doing something about it.

“To deny that internet friends are real is like saying 'only the people in your immediate vicinity are worth caring about.' If two people are happy spending time together whether that's in the same room or with an internet connection and a freakin' ocean between them then there is no logic in claiming that's not a legitimate friendship.” Dave aka Boyinaband

© 2016 social thoughts

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  • social thoughts profile image
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    social thoughts 16 months ago from New Jersey

    Paula,

    It is encouraging to know others agree that friendships are meaningful whether or not they have been face to face. Thank you!

  • fpherj48 profile image

    Paula 16 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Well...I have certainly acquired some lovely online friends & we've definitely formed sincere bonds with one another. I feel toward them just as I do those close friends I have grown up with.

    Saying online friends are not "real" friends is too much like saying they're not real people, which of course we're certain they are!

    We converse, share, keep in touch, get to know one another well & grow to be genuinely fond of online friends. The difference between online & face to face relationships is that we don't get to "see" them in the flesh. So, does this mean that the blind have no real friends & never will? I don't think so!

  • Herb Dino profile image

    Sage 17 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    Very true!

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 17 months ago from New Jersey

    Herb Dino,

    Yes, the difference is that they would have met; however, with the distance, one can't know what the other is really doing. They have to trust what they're being told. That's all I'm saying. I'm restating my point that just because you know someone in person doesn't stop them from being other than how they're presenting themselves. :)

  • Herb Dino profile image

    Sage 17 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    That's a good point! Though maybe the difference for them is that they'd already known each other in real life? Idk.

  • social thoughts profile image
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    social thoughts 17 months ago from New Jersey

    Herb Dino,

    Thank you for sharing!

    The different perspective because of age is an interesting point. It is a bit strange that older generations would find it odd, considering for centuries when loved ones go off to war and such it's supposed to be special to stay in contact via postal mail or email, these days, yet no one knows for sure what's really going on, anyway. So, what's the difference, there? :)

  • Herb Dino profile image

    Sage 17 months ago from Ontario, Canada

    I think that people who don't think you can make "real" friends on the internet are simply not getting with the times and understanding that it's a new, valid way to form friendships.

    I've actually made a number of close friends using online dating services. People my own age (early 20s) don't seem to bat an eye at this, but I've had people from older generations express that they think it's quite weird. Hey, if it works, why not?

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 17 months ago from Washington, DC

    Got it. I like your mention of the social construct which does box us in.

  • social thoughts profile image
    Author

    social thoughts 17 months ago from New Jersey

    Jan,

    Thank you for reading.

    Again, one of my points is that one never knows in any situation, online or in person, if a real connection has ever been made, mutually. One can only hope. So, the "next level" concept you mention is a social construct we are familiar with. We think of doing things in person as being a cement of a relationship, but it doesn't necessarily mean anything for the other person, regardless of what they may tell us. People can get married and one spouse be left the following day. We have no control over what another person does. The idea of it being face to face doesn't change the outcome, but the internet gives us far more options of people to choose from. That is my point.

  • social thoughts profile image
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    social thoughts 17 months ago from New Jersey

    Thank you, Bill. As I've said, I am glad that you and I are friends, too. :)

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

    Sheez, it sure seems real to me. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy land and I really don't know reality. Maybe I'm delusional to the extreme and need a padded cell so I won't hurt myself.

    And maybe, just maybe, it is possible to form friendships with people you've never met because people have so many commonalities and our ingrained sociability makes it entirely possible.

    So, assuming I'm not crazy, I am glad you and I are friends....and no, I'm not a stalker or serial killer. :)

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 17 months ago from Washington, DC

    Whew! The internet has certainly complicated things, haven't they? I found this hub and Dave's positions intriguing. The argument for expanding our horizons seems to make a lot of sense. After all, we are one big world community and should look beyond the limitations of our imaginary borders for friendship, right? But I'm not sure how practical it seems when it's time to take the friendship to the next level, i.e., face-to-face contact to hug, share a meal, make a commitment, get married. And airfare is expensive, no?

    I have these conversations with clients all the time who are in search of meaningful relationships through online dating. Just today, the topic was how to tell if you have a "real connection" via texting.

    It's all very fascinating and hard to ignore that things have changed. We are now forced to embrace the things we thought were strange but it's now the alternative way of the world in order to have friendships if the other way is not working. Great article, social thoughts. I enjoyed it.