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Online Friends are Not Imaginary Friends

Updated on December 21, 2011
Friendships Online
Friendships Online

Relationships Built Over the Internet

I'm not talking about romance; I'm talking about friendships -- platonic relationships built around common interests. Online friendships are forged at forums, publishing platforms, blogs, and social networking sites. When the same people interact with you in two or more of those online places, you grow to really know a person. Sometimes you become friends.

Yes, an online friend is a real friend. Sometimes when I talk about my online friends to my IRL (in real life) friends, they look at me strangely as if I'm referring to an imaginary friend. No, online friends are not imaginary. They are real people who are really friends.

What About You?

Do You Have Online Friends?

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It's an Internet Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

Those who don't have online hangouts where they build relationships with people may find it hard to understand how someone can have online friends. The whole idea sounds absurd. How can one be friends with someone he has never met, seen, or spoken to?

There lies the confusion. Just because you don't see these people face to face does not mean that communication is not going on. Online friends interact via typed words. There is little difference between online communication and old fashioned correspondence by mail except for the instant nature of the Internet. There is real communication going on, albeit by the written word.

This fact begs the question, "Are the words you type a good reflection of the real you?" This is debatable, and much has been said about the anonymity which the Internet offers. People can cloak their real selves with online personas and pretend to be someone they are not.

But think about it critically. Don't you know people in real life who also try to be perceived as something that they are not? Sure, it happens all the time. The Internet simply makes it easier.

The reality remains that many people who forge friendships online are genuinely themselves on their blog posts, in forums, and in their articles.

Why Would Someone Want or Need Online Friends?

There are many reasons why people look for and find friendships online.

Specialized Support

On the Internet, you can find people who are like you -- hundreds or thousands of them -- even if you know no one like you in real life.

For example, for many years I homeschooled my daughter in an environment where no one else around me was homeschooling. I longed for someone to talk to, someone who would understand the challenges and joys of home education. But if I looked around me, there was no one who could understand. Online, however, there were vibrant communities of homeschool moms who relished our encouraging interactions. The homeschool forums and blogs I discovered during those years offered me lots of support that I simply could not have found where I was living.

Another example would be blogging and article writing. I have no real life friends who blog, so it's hard for them to understand my excitement over increasing subscriber numbers or disappointment over rejected ad proposals. My online blogging friends, however, totally understand me and offer me the "listening ear" that I long for.

The bottom line is that online you can find others with your particular interests, people who understand your passions and will support you in your personal goals.

An Escape from Isolation

Other people suffer from disabilities or family hardships that keep at home most of the time. Maintaining relationships is difficult when you cannot get out of the house. But online friendships are a good alternative. As long as you have Internet access, you can chat and email at your own convenience from your own bedroom or living room.

Just one of the online friends who has become a real life friend.
Just one of the online friends who has become a real life friend.

Making the Leap from Online to Real Life: Meeting Online Friends

I have a word of advice about meeting online friends -- do it!

I have met up with at least four different people who were originally online friends. Most of those people remain true friends to this day. Each one turned out to me just like she portrayed herself online. In fact, in each case, I loved that person more after meeting her in real life!

Obviously you need to be cautious. Set up the situation so that you are safe, but don't be afraid to meet online friends. It is an enriching experience!

Have You Ever Met (IRL) an Online Friend?

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    • profile image

      Nadire 4 years ago

      Honestly I agree with hayden., and I love the whole sell your squad idea. Personally I'd love to see pace beocme less of a factor. I'm a very total football kind of man, I love having passing specialists in my team and being able to dominate possession which is why I hate those stupid untalented quick guys some shit team sticks up top. I think I also want to see more specialization when it comes to stadiums, like if I'm at the etihad, I want the net to be black or if I'm at the bernabau I want the crowd right behind the goal instead of 80 yards away. I also want more freedom on celebrations. If I just scored a goal in stoppage time, I whhjhant to o rip my shirt off or go celebrate with the crowd or the subs. And if I'm up 6 or 7 nil why can't I just start walking emotionlessand give one of my teamates a gentle high five. I also want new commentators, like Macca or and Ian darke on ESPN who are the best! Rather than Clyde tilsley and his butt buddy Andy town send, I mean come on EA get creative!!!

    • DanaTeresa profile image

      Dana Strang 5 years ago from Ohio

      This is a great hub. I have a friend that used to give me a hard time about my online friends. I don't think she understands. Never will. I have met so many people, many through hubpages, thatI never would have met otherwise, and my life is better for it.... You do need to be careful of the creepy people. It is a shame,but they are out there. I have not had any bad experiences yet unless you count meeting a few bad personalities - hey, that happens in real life too!

    • JimmieWriter profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 years ago from Memphis, TN USA

      @leenamartha I agree with you! Why be fake? There is no need.

    • leenamartha profile image

      Leena Martha 6 years ago from USA

      Many people suggest that online, people cover up who they really are, but as you say in your hub, in everyday life people do that all the time. I think online it is much easier for many people to open up and be more honest, rather than disguising themselves.

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 6 years ago from Texas

      Great thoughts! I am very much a hermit and unlikely to meet anyone in person, but it is good to have online friends, and I do consider them to be "real" friends! :D Voted up and awesome!

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 6 years ago from Thailand

      Although I have not intentionally looked for online friends, I have met people through this site that I consider to be friends. It is almost like penpals of the past, sharing common interests and support, but with little possibility of meeting. However, that doesn't reduce their importance and potential effect on your life or your impact on them.

    • jeyaramd profile image

      jeyaramd 6 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Online friendships can sometimes be very special. I have met a few people online that have shared many of my morals and values. Sometimes, more so, than people that I have met in real life. Its quite fascinating how the online world can seem so small when you meet real quality people. Its a whole new world. Of course, you have to weary of the information that you share. However, I think there are a lot of benefits in seeing the beauty of humanity in the online world. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and thoughtful hub.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This was a really interesting hub and you're right - online friends are definately real!

      Many people suggest that online, people cover up who they really are, but as you say in your hub, in everyday life people do that all the time. I think online it is much easier for many people to open up and be more honest, rather than disguising themselves. This is one real benefit of the internet, that subjects people might find difficult to discuss face to face is often much easier when writing about them to friends.

      Great hub + voted up!

    • Diana Trees profile image

      Diana Trees 6 years ago from Atlantic City

      My online people are my closest friends.

    • SKCandles profile image

      SKCandles 6 years ago from Canada

      So very true! I have some friends that I consider my best friends who I met online. And who I have met online. And people who are not into the online thing just do not get it.

    • daleamy profile image

      daleamy 6 years ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Very well written. So thankful to have these avenues of support!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 6 years ago from Western NC

      Hmmm...this makes me feel better because I seem to spent a lot of time commenting and interacting with people online. :)

    • MomTech profile image

      Connie Klemme 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very good!!!