Online friends --> RL friends: Where to draw the line?

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This is a topic I wanted to explore with all of you, and I felt it was especially pertinent since this is an online forum. This is not the first forum I have been a part of, and I have met many people elsewhere, some of whom became friends in real life.

One example is the Star Wars forums I used to actively participate in. Many members came there to chat, they prepared to carpool and lodge together as a Star Wars Convention was upcoming in Los Angeles, and many of us met in real life. Afterwards, we became Facebook friends and some had regular get togethers.

My question in—when and how do you determine if someone becomes a real life friend? Do you keep in strictly on an anonymous/internet basis, or do you exchange email/pics and feel out the situation? The last board I was on, people were willing to post (casual) pictures of themselves on a thread, even though this board is a bit more reserved.

I would be interested to hear all of your thoughts on this.

 
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To me, real life friends are always people I have personal contact with. I wouldn’t say that it would be impossible to create a bond with someone online that would be strong enough to call him a real life friend, but I don’t tend to give out enough information about myself to make that possible. Also, I have a different image of myself when I am online then when I am around people. In the anonymity of the web I feel less obliged to stay coherent in how I behave. That makes for a weak basis for building true friendships.

To me a friend would have to be someone I know more about than just a few superficial details. We need to feel comfortable and safe around each other. A real friend is someone that you can tell things to you would not tell anyone else. You can truly be yourself with a true friend.

 
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I basically agree with epr. I’ve only known one person – on a different forum – that i’d acknowledge as a ‘real’ friend, and it helps that she’s on my facebook, so we both share ourselves. I think if you can talk to the person without needing to keep within the confines of net domain you encountered them, then it has a chance of being something real. What I mean is, I’d only consider someone from SD a friend if we could comfortably talk about other things besides ‘serious discussion’. I’ve definitely had people open up to me really personally on here, but I felt uncomfortable for most of those instances and didn’t try to repeat the experience. Whereas, the one online friend I do acknowledge, I met by chance in a roleplaying MMO but we quickly grew to talking about many other unrelated things. Even after I left the game, we still keep in touch.

So it’s possible to have real friends without personal contact, but it’s definitely rare.

 
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Originally posted by Twilight_Ninja:

My question in—when and how do you determine if someone becomes a real life friend?

When you see them so much and interact with them so completely that it dos not matter whether they are physical or electronic.

This board is so far removed from that its not funny.

I have online-only friends I’ve had for years that I have never physically met, yet I consider them family. Yelled at their kids for doing stupid things, sent funds to, sent the cops to people who were causing them trouble (ain’t electronic faxes great! So are other friends who can access the police database.) Received funds from, sent aforementioned funds back with a note saying “don’t do that again!” and so forth.

The online part crosses barriers that would be hard to cross physically, such as social circles, nationality, or crippling disability.

One person I have met physically, is happier to meet me online than he is physically. This is due to the nature of his disability, and the fact that his online rig lets him present to people on a more even ground than if they knew him physically. They only think he is an asshole becaudse of his personality, not because of his disability.

The only reason we even met physically is because I built the rig tailored to his needs that lets him do that. Had I not needed to do that, we would still have become fast friends online purely through his personality and antics.

The man I live with, I also met first online, although that did need to cross the boundary from online only to physical, and it took a long, long time after that first happened before I was comfortable sleeping with him.

So, in summation, there isn’t really a line as such. The longer you spend with other people in a high-embodiment situation, the better you get to know them. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know their flesh, as the flesh isn’t the person. All that matters is that you truly get to know the person, and they truly get to know you.

 
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Most of my friends are “online friends” due to the distance away they now live. I made friends with them when living near to them but people move around lots these days so tend to only really chat digitally now, with the very occasional meeting.

Personally, I am happy with this. I am not one of those people that needs to constantly be surrounded by a crowd of ‘friends’, I much prefer to keep a couple of close people I trust and class the rest as acquaintances.

I have two people I would class as ‘close friends’, a further 3-4 ‘friends’ and I have a separate person I would class as a confidant who I deliberately don’t spend excess amounts of time with socially as we both know way too much about the other, then I have others, local and online that I will happily chat, joke, drink, eat etc with but I wouldn’t class as ‘friends’.

I am not really sure there is such a distinction these days, specially for me who doesn’t need to see someone constantly to class them a friend. I have met people who I have really liked, even loved, who then through circumstance and distance became ‘online friends’, and I have met people online that I have since met and got on with (although honestly those are more physical than emotional)

 
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For me personally, an online friend becomes a proper friend when I’d be happy with them knowing information such as my real name, address and phone number.

Years ago I made plenty, met them in person, etc. But right now, I haven’t made a new friend from the online world for around five years… I think I learnt that I prefer friends I can easily see face to face. Just have no interest in forming friendships online anymore.

 
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Being friends with people doesn’t require having physical contact.
Friendship is a sense of honor and sharing love to a person.

There’s not really a line to an online friend and real life friend.
I think it is the moments you shared with each other that determines a true friend.
It’s the truthfulness between each other that bonds friends.

 
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guy i knew was such good friends with an online girl almost his age, that he went to America to spend time with her. apprently he fell in love with, and married, her mother… ahum. real story.

anyway, not that i really have any offline friends, but even if i did offline friends, i wouldn’t do online friends. it’s just…i really like the electronic format, but for the very same reasons i don’t think it’s applicable for personal connections like friendships. you don’t get to know their personality through online interaction, you only get to know their inner mind. in a way it’s more intimate, there’s a lot you can get to know about a person through digital, written-format that would otherwise remain hidden behind, uhm, mannerisms, physical insecurities or a whole list of things like that, but it’s uhm…only because of an absense of certain fore-ground elements of contact or knowing eachother.

but i guess skype might make it different, as that is virtual face-to-face communication. i still haven’t installed skype even though friends (uhm…well you got me, i’m always a bit ambiguous about my social life) have asked me to. but i don’t wanna help the CIA that much…

 
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LiBeRtAdEs: go to the Off Topic forum, and click “New topic”, not “Reply to topic”.

 
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if you can have sex with them and they are into the same things as you

 
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First of all i’d like to thank “vikaTae” on such a detailed and interesting post ;)

I also met someone online who became very special to me and we were in a relationship for a while. I met one of my girlfriends online, we had a nice few months together. I just found it hard to say to others that we met over the internet, plus it made me feel really insecure because you have no idea what people are really like. That’s where I understand what you mean VikaTae with sleeping with your partner for the first time.

I guess you draw the line when they cross your age boundaries. E.g, If you’re 15 and this other person is apparently 15 but is asking for nude pictures and continuous being inappropriate and encouraging you to act in a inappropriate way then the chances are that person isn’t 15. It may not even be that obvious. It can be hard to pick pedophiles and legit people. Sorry to put it like that but that’s just how it is to me.

I have a lot of online friends, as for meeting them only the ones that I really trust and have built my trust over a long period of time I would and have met. It is pretty awkward the first you meet them because you don’t know what going to happen, it’s always good to met in an open area, like McDonalds or something. Just so you can feel that bit more safe.

Now getting back to your question, well you virtually answered your own question then. A real life friend is someone who you may go to school with, work with, hang out with e.t.c. I have two main friend groups, internet and real life. No matter what happens in real life it’s always nice to know I can fall back on my internet life and discuss my problems and help them. It’s also helpful because I can talk about matters that I can’t with real life mates.

I like to be very open with my internet life, I have no problem acting normal infront of people, telling them the “area” (not address) I live in, my age, my name and last name, Facebook, twitter, email, so on e.t.c…. But the trust needs to be earned first and I need to be able to believe that they’re who they say they are. As for pictures that comes down to the Facebook, that is a big step, giving someone over the internet, they can gather so much knowledge and information about you.

But I do like to call a lot of my internet friends real friends because they’re real friends to me. I hang out with them for countless hours whether over the xbox or forums. So in conclusion I am willing to call everyone that I consider a friends a friend, whether it be over the internet or not.

Yes I realise I just contradicted myself but I changed my mind =D