My mother has lost all respect for me. Her otherwise intelligent, logical, successful daughter has joined the internet social-networking cult.

That’s what it is after all, right? A group of swindlers who hide behind friendly personas, just waiting for the chance to harm you? Sex offenders… thieves… mass serial killers…

Which one are you?

While I’ve always felt a bit like the “odd girl out,” I’m really not stupid. And I’m not crazy. (Well, maybe just a little bit crazy.) I use discretion when I’m communicating with people on the net. I realize there is a chance I could be targeted by a not-so-nice person; however, that can happen at the office as well.

Anyway… back to my mother…

Aside from believing that people on the internet are evil, she also thinks they aren’t real… like the computer is just an imaginary playground with a million virtual friends. I know other people who think the same thing. I can see the look of pity and concern on their faces whenever I speak of an “online friend,” as though these relationships could never ever be taken as seriously as flesh-and-blood connections.

Even some of my online friends will distinguish between online and “real life.” That confuses me. I thought this was my real life. Did I miss something?

It’s true that on sites like Stumble Upon, we can choose to be whomever we like. We can pick a photo to match the personality we want to portray, and we can set up our blogs to reflect that. We can email unsuspecting people and even “talk” like someone we are not.

But don’t we do that offline, too? Don’t you know people who present themselves as a particular personality – complete with the appropriate attire, manners, and language – only to discover later that they are not at all who they claim to be? It happens.

I find that online social networking exercises my gut. Spiritual crunches, if you will. Every time I meet someone new, I have to gather my senses together and decide how it all “feels” to me. Sometimes I make a snap judgment that later turns out to be incorrect, as was the case with my now dear friend, Paul. It can work the other way, also, when a “friend” turns out to have “issues,” like the big drama a couple of months ago on my SU blog.

But most of the time, I meet real people. Real people with real thoughts and feelings and skin, (and worrying mothers) just like me. The first five senses are stifled… I can’t see them, except through their blogs. I can’t hear them, except through their writing. I can’t touch them. I can’t taste (do we use that sense when meeting people?) And (maybe thankfully), I can’t smell them. So I’m forced to rely on that sixth sense – my gut.

I believe the majority of my online friends are more authentic than most of my offline acquaintances. There is nothing imaginary about them.

Sorry, Mom. Friends are friends. I’ll take as many as I can get. Online… offline… in line… out-of-line… just don’t feed me a cheesy line…

10 Comments on “Are Online Friends Real?

  1. You pretty much sim up the way I feel. I particularly identify with the idea that interner friends are different from real life friends. The (few) friends I have made on line are very real to me.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Toadee. Yes, it’s not like it’s a robot typing on the other end of cyber space, is it? I wonder if anyone felt this way when the telephone was first introduced? Oh, those voices on the other end of the phone aren’t REAL…

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  3. I think I qualify as one of the “online friends”. We have not met, shared farts, touched, etc..But I am as real as they come.Long long ago, when I was a boy, my mother told me I was a terrible liar. I never forgot that and decided that I would just have to deal with truth.~Keith

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  4. Keith, my REAL friend, You are absolutely one of my dearest!Eventually I will write a post about how special my online relationships are to me. This was just a generic musing on the subject. 🙂Lisa

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  5. Lisa,I understand (and understood). I was simply offering myself as an example of how online friends can be real. Just as in the “offline” world, there is a mixture.~Keith

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  6. Lisa,This was a very well written post and I truly appreciate where you are coming from. My mother and your mother would get along marvelously, I imagine. Over the course of the last twelve years or so I’ve happened to meet a lot of people I call friends. Some of them I have yet to meet face to face. Others I have met once. And some I have met numerous times. And I married one of them.And, yes, it was a very taboo thing back then — to *meet* someone in a chat room and then arrange a face to face meeting with them. Much less get engaged and — *gasp* — marry them! I’ve met some wonderful people on SU that I am proud to call friends. There are a couple that I fully intend on meeting face to face one day. The whole marriage thing is out of the question now, though. 🙂I’m with you — friends are friends and I am willing to take as many as I can get. You just can never have too many.Peace.Lee

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  7. Lee,What a great story! 🙂 Congratulations on your marriage.Do you have a particular social site you’d like to plug as being responsible for that love connection? I appreciate your comments and I’m happy to hear that you found intimacy in this electronic forum.The world’s a changin’. 🙂Lisa

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  8. Lisa,I meet my wonderful husband in a chatroom on mIRC about 12 years ago. The name of the chatroom was “ChinaCottage”. Just mentioning it by name brings back lots of fun memories of all the wonderful people I met and called “friend”.Unfortunately, the husband and I have pretty much lost contact with them all. Maybe one day we’ll all find each other again. One can hope, right?

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  9. Several years ago an online friend died. The rest of us in the group knew he was sick and had been for a while. He’d been a great contributor and generally a good guy. I’d never met him, but when he passed I felt a genuine sense of loss.I’ve met a couple people that I’d ‘met’ on the Internet first. A fellow blogger flew in from Seattle several years ago (for business) and we met for lunch one day.Another blog-friend flew into Philly from the UK and we got together. So far I haven’t met any psychos or predators. (As a guy maybe I have less to worry about.)

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  10. Thanks for sharing your experience, Delmer. 🙂I keep telling my mother that you run the same risk if you meet someone at the grocery store. He could be a psycho just as easily as the online person.Or…He could be a really nice guy. 🙂

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