How Real Are Friends On Social Networks?

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)

7 comments

  1. Tales · July 10, 2009

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Mia!

  2. Mia · July 10, 2009

    I totally agree with rewena. Leaving carefully-thought-out comments in other blogs can bring one unexpected net friends. I came to know blog because his meaningful comment in “SHE in china” got my attention. In one comment he talked about that jogging in the midnight is safe in Singapore, which is the same city I live in, so just one mouse click, I came to his blog and found it a very great one. I especially enjoy reading his posts about his observation of Singapore and expect to read more. I will be a regular reader of this blog for sure.

  3. Mia · July 10, 2009

    I totally agree with you that “internet can help us build meaningful relationships with people we'd have otherwise never known?!”

    Without internet, one can only know a handful of people in their real life, but with internet, we have chance to know so many people from all walks of life, isn't it just amazing! High tech like internet can really greatly enrich our life experience.

  4. Rowena · July 10, 2009

    And all because I had left a comment on She in China. This brings to mind the importance of comments. Saying something meaningful and to the point( instead of being lame and fleeting) will get you noticed. I don't see why any reader should leave a comment if he/she can't relate to the topic at hand. Better to simply say nothing at all.

  5. Mia · July 10, 2009

    when the internet just became popular years ago, i was a student and surfed the campus BBS a lot and enjoyed the conversations with other students whom i've not met. then one day i decided to meet one of them, then we met and instantly i was disappointed, why?in my imagination, he must be a tall, thin,handsome boy, however, he turned out to be quite the opposite. i guess he was disappointed with my look too:) we still chatted for a while and said good-bye, and we never met again later.

    another story, also on the BBS, i met a guy who was in another university in another city. we chatted for months as we shared some common interest in literature, poems, etc. he seemed to develop love interest in me, and i said no because i already had a boyfriend and loved him so much. so we remained net friends, although he felt it was a great pity that i could not love him. then one day i found with surprise that the guy was born exactly on the same day and same year as me! i treated him as my brother ever since.

  6. MKL · July 10, 2009

    @Serene, caution is always good and I know who's a good friend online after I see he's a loyal person to me after a period of time… I've met people online, was friends for a while and then they disappear. Sure, some stick and become a part of your life, even if they're from the other side of the world. For a friendship a predator won't stick with someone for a long time. So it's easy to distinguish between them.

    @Tales, well, I have no illusion that my possible future wife will fart and I will fart, too. I must say I don't like to hear it, I like to be a taboo. But sometimes you can't beat nature and you're between a rock and a hard place. Try to do it more discreet. Don't be a redneck infront of your poor wife 😛

  7. Serene · July 10, 2009

    I'm all for meeting people. You have to use caution, just as if you met them in person. For example, you meet someone, all is wonderful, you decide to get married. After the ceremony, the Monster comes out & you're thinking, “who the hell is this person?” I've heard stories of online predators that will even go 1-2 yrs to develop a confidence to get what they want. So, weather it's online or in the flesh, caution should prevail.

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