How Real Are Friends On Social Networks?

BradleyReviews7 Comments

I remember asking myself this question a few times, but not any time recently.

When the internet first became popular, and I was delving into the world of AOL chat rooms, the people on the other end of the screen names popping up on my monitor seemed… well, impersonal.  It was always like talking to a group of random strangers, and the idea of making friends with people I’d never met in person was ridiculous.

Well, that was 13 years ago. The times, and my opinion, have both changed.  I’m sure that most people who have grown up with internet access would find it odd to not make and keep online friends.  It seems only natural nowadays to stumble across an interesting person, strike up a conversation, and create a lasting relationship.

I have plenty of friends that I’ve never seen in person, but have known for a long time through various methods of internet communication.  In fact, one of my oldest friends is a friend I made through an online game called Dark Age of Camelot.  We’ve been chatting off and on for about 7 years.  I’ve never know anyone else outside of my family for that long.  I also still communicate with the people I played World of Warcraft with two years ago.

I suppose you could say, “Well how well do you really know these people?”  Sure, that’s a good point.  How well can you know someone who you only communicate with via the internet?  A person can tell you one thing but actually do another, and you’d never know since you weren’t there.  But, I suppose that takes a leap of faith initially, and a little trust.  Also, with the more recent explosion of “real time” social networks (think Twitter) it’s becoming easier to get to know a person you’ve never met.

People Tweet about all kinds of things, from what they have in the morning, to what they do at work, to the last time they were able to successfully take a crap.  That’s pretty personal.  On top of that, people Tweet photos and videos.  I think there are even geo-tagged Tweets now?  Also, programs like Google Latitude are becoming popular.  It’s becoming more and more simple to connect and get to know your online friends.

So, I would have to say that I know plenty of people that I would think of as friends, that I’ve only chatted with online.  What’s your take on it?  Have any interesting stories to share about meeting people online?  Or do you think it’s bad or dangerous?

(Image Source: Kikolani.com)

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