Online Friends are Not Imaginary Friends
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?
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.
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.
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?
More About Being Online
- If You Blog, You are Your Readers' Friend
Don't be surprised when your blog readers start treating you as a friend. But you do need to decide how to deal with these readers who consider you a friend. Will you reach out to them or remain aloof? Above all be kind to your readers and respect th