Jul 24 2007

My Good Friend…

Published by at 8:19 pm under social media,social networking

Is the internet redefining our friendships? I often see bloggers referring to another blogger as “my good friend [insert hyperlinked name]”.

It got me thinking about these cyber-friendships, or internet friendships (as wikipedia refers to them).

Take facebook for example. You’ve just received a “friend request” and you’re prompted to answer how you know this person.

Facebook Friendship

Nowhere does it give the option, “well, um, I haven’t actually met this person, but I consider them a friend”.

What is a friend?

  1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
  2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
  3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
  4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.

There are quite a few bloggers who I would call “friends” – most of whom I’ve never met. Some I might meet one day, some I probably won’t. But that’s not really important. Do they really qualify as “friends”?

  1. They are people I like, trust and know – to the extent that they share their thoughts and feelings through their writing. It doesn’t matter that it’s not written solely for me.
  2. We are certainly “acquainted
  3. There is an alliance in that we share a common interest in blogging (and goodness knows that can be a struggle πŸ˜‰ )
  4. Yes, we sympathise with the cause – “friends of the blogosphere”. Even if we mightn’t always agree…

I was debating with a non-blogger the other day, about the value of these friendships, and arguing that they are indeed friendships.

The scenario was raised that if I unexpectedly stopping posting no one would care, so they’re not considered friends. Sure, the majority probably wouldn’t notice. But I reckon there’d be a handful that would drop me a line and say “everything ok with you? You’ve been quiet lately….”.

I have “friends” I haven’t seen for years. I have “friends” I haven’t spoken to in ages. I have the “friends” I went to school with 2 decades ago. But if I bump into them in the street, or they ring or email we pick up the friendship where we left off.

Internet friendships are no less meaningful than any other, and they’re a sign of the times. And I get a nice warm fuzzy feeling when someone writes “My good friend Meg…”

Friends, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Are internet friendships “real”? Does friendship require meeting IRL (In Real Life)?

22 responses so far

22 Responses to “My Good Friend…”

  1. Leighon 24 Jul 2007 at 9:15 pm

    I consider you a friend, I would certainly notice and care if you stopped posting. We live in the same state, so I’m sure we will met up one day :)

    Some of my closest friends I have met online. I have also met them in person, that was much after the close friendship had already formed but I don’t think that changed things too much.

    I agree, online friendship are a sign of the times. It is just as normal to make friends online as it is in the office or through your kids etc.

    Coming from a forum background, I have made countless friends online and watch them form every day. For most people they are no different to IRL friends, but some people still have issues with it.

    I am enjoying the different way I am connecting and making friends with blogging as opposed the other ways I have made friends online in the past.

  2. Martin Neumannon 24 Jul 2007 at 9:34 pm

    My good friend Meg,

    Yes, I believe internet friendships are “real” in so much as any friendship is for real – it’s a different world we’re living in today, we have to define the term friendships.

    I have a tendency to call them “blog friends”, then “associates” and when I can say I 100% trust them just plain “friend”.

    And that’s also one of the reasons why I started SOAustralia – I’ve long been a global blogger but I missed the real-life interaction – which I’m hoping to achieve.
    One of my goals with my new direction is to meetup with as many Aussie bloggers as possible at events around Australia over the coming years.

    We’ve already had a Melbourne Meetup where I finally met with Darren Rowse. I have a growing list of Aussie bloggers I want to meet πŸ˜‰

    BTW, I’ve often wondered why that option (never met, but still a friend) is not on Facebook.

  3. Megon 24 Jul 2007 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Leigh

    I did consider you as one of the ones who’d “notice” :)

    As you know, I’m not a big forum visitor, but my son is. I know that’s another way that very strong friendships form – via the common interests shared. It’s a great opportunity to get people with a common interest in one place, who probably never would find each other offline.

    I guess my point is that the internet is just another avenue to find people who you share a common interest, perspective, viewpoint with.

    “I am enjoying the different way I am connecting and making friends with blogging…”

    Me too :)

  4. Megon 24 Jul 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Hey Martin

    Thanks πŸ˜‰

    Similar here – “blogging mates” (how Aussie is that?). I hope you get to meet lots – I know what you mean about a “growing list”…

    “BTW, I’ve often wondered why that option (never met, but still a friend) is not on Facebook.”

    Glad it’s not just me! I guess when you think of how Facebook originated (i.e. for alumni), it’s just not a progression they’ve made YET. Have to suffice with “met randomly… on the Blogosphere in 2007”.

  5. Willon 24 Jul 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I think to understand that you can have real relationships with people you’ve met online – you have to be a bit more open minded about human interaction.

    I still get “crazy” looks and shakes of the head from some folk at work when I said I was flying to another state to attend the engagement/wedding of someone I’d never met before. My family either understand (now) or don’t let-on that they think I’m nuts (atleast, about having friends online).

    But, to answer the question from my perspective – Yes, you can have real relationships with people you’ve never met offline before.
    People do notice if you stop participating (blogging, chatting, etc). Perhaps not as immediate as if you live/work together, but they do notice. When you stop participating for long enough, friends will attempt to make contact some how (email, phone, or in person if necessary).

    In my opinion, and experience, the connections and emotions are just as real as any other relationship, even if you’ve never met or spoken.

    (I’ve edited and re-edited this comment to make it more coherant, but I don’t think I’m getting anywhere fast)

    Now, please excuse me, I’ve got to go order a russian bride. πŸ˜‰

  6. Cordon 24 Jul 2007 at 11:57 pm


    Real interesting post. I disagree with your friend who says that to be a “friend” you need to meet in person. A perfect example of that is YOU! Several weeks ago when I was underwater with work, I had not posted in 4-5 days and YOU send me a personal email asking if I was ok as I had not posted in a while. If that is not a friend, I don’t know what is.

    I think technology is enabling us to do things that would of been unthinkable several years ago. Like a person in North Carolina, USA befriending a person in Australia. :)

    I think the term friend has many different levels depending on who you are all I know is that I consider myself lucky that I can call you a friend. :)

  7. Fat Bastardon 25 Jul 2007 at 1:47 am

    I suppose it’s how one defines “friends”.

    To me, people I meet online are more like pen pals. Lets face it, when you meet someone in person you are in each others “space” and that makes for a whole new dynamic doesn’t it?

    Call me old school but the people I call my friends are ones I met at school, playing sport, at social gatherings and so on. In other words people who I’m comfortable with in my space and vica versa.

    The internet seems to be a medium where like minded people with similar interests hook up and solve the problems of the world, or at least some of them, okay none of them but they have fun trying.

    I call myself “Fat Bastard” and display an avatar of a half naked woman. Does that mean I’m a big fat ugly pervert (wait, don’t answer that). The point is that we can be whoever and whatever we want to be in a virtual world but the wraps come off when we meet in person don’t they.

    For example many of the blogs which I visit seems to have a pretty decent following. The authors of these blogs are to be commended on the quality of the content which they publish. Now lets say we were able to put all of a popular author’s subscribers in one room and have that person deliver the content of a popular post and then deal with the various comments which are made by the audience (subscibers).

    How many bloggers could do that in real life as well as they do it online? My guess would be not many. They can do it online, sure but what about in “real life”?

    Online, people can project a persona which may be genuine or completely false. There is no eye contact, no sweaty palms, no need for quick answers and no evidence of hesitation. Ask me anything you like online and I have time to construct my answer be it honest or otherwise. But meet me in person and you get the real McCoy.

    The point I’m making is simple. Friends are people we know and trust. We have met them, spent time with them, argued with them, supported them and maintained a relationship with them through thick and thin. Pen pals are as fickle as the click of a mouse.

  8. Snoskredon 25 Jul 2007 at 4:18 am

    I do consider you my good friend Meg, and I certainly would notice if you vanished from the interwebs. πŸ˜‰

    Most of my good real life friends I originally met online. I met the other half online, too. I think we’ve been together for almost 9 years now.. :) I also have very good friends online who live a long distance away and we may never meet but I still consider them real friends. :)

    Oh, and I made a great new friend on mybloglog the other day, even though I reported him as a scammer he seems to still have an account there.. Sephy and I gave him a little tingle last night just to check in and find out about his travel scam.. turns out on further google digging he has a myspace and is a bit of a love scammer by all accounts, interested in all *kinds* of relationships! We’ve hooked him up with a couple of *ahem* unsavory people, well I wouldn’t really call them people, more like.. computer baiting scripts.

    Unfortunately it seems mybloglog read my message over 24 hours ago, and nothing has been done. :( So I have a scammer as my fan waiting for me to make him my friend – and from what I can see, there is no way to reject him, I can only choose to add him as a friend. On his profile, it says his friends are me, and Eric. Somewhat ironic.. πŸ˜‰


  9. Katieon 25 Jul 2007 at 9:35 am

    I’m someone who strongly believes that you can make friends through the web. Yes, you’ve got to be careful about stranger danger, but I’ve met some amazing friends online; some I’ve gone on to meet in real life, and others I still haven’t met, and that’s fine. Sometimes you can be closer to online friends than real life ones!

    And I’d notice if you stopped blogging. I think many of us hope someone would notice and I do believe that most people would be noticed. Especially with the rise in the amount of online blogs, online friendships is becoming more widespread and common.

    A “friend” is defined by you and your friend, in my opinion. Everyone has a different meaning for what a friend is and what they mean to you – I wouldn’t fret if it’s not a “typical” friendship – it’s still friends, even if you’ve never met! :)

  10. Andyon 25 Jul 2007 at 10:34 am

    You don’t have to meet offline to classed as friends, but it definitely helps take the friendship to the next level. People definitely derive a lot more about others from face-to-face interaction.

  11. Megon 25 Jul 2007 at 10:58 am

    @ Will, I think you were perfectly coherent and agree with what you’re saying. I think it’s hard for people to appreciate the “culture” (for want of a better word) when they’ve never experienced it. “Russian Bride” LOL πŸ˜€

    @ Cord – thanks for that :) and likewise. We do define friendships differently I guess, and you’re spot on with the technology, the dynamic just wouldn’t be the same if one had to wait a couple of weeks for the mail to arrive. With Twitter, Skype, IM, email it’s all pretty instantaneous.

    @ Fat Bastard – I do think you’re old school, and guessing that you don’t have a blog, don’t have twitter and don’t join in forums to a large extent.

    I think you’re really wrong about the internet. The technology has enabled many problems to be solved, and interactions that just would not be possible offline because of the tyranny of distance. Imagine trying to get a group of scientists or medical specialists together in one place and time? That’s possible with modern technology.

    I agree that people may not be who they appear to be online, but people in real life also hide what they don’t want known. How many psychopaths and murders have shocked the heck out of their family, friends and colleagues by committing heinous crimes and these people had “no idea”.

    So while I advocate people “keeping safe” online, to an extent we have to take people at face value, and accept what they want us to see.

    I would probably be pretty lousy in a room full of subscribers. But many would probably be great. I just prefer to communicate via text, and in a small group, but it doesn’t mean I’m socially inept. And it doesn’t make be a “worse friend” which is what we are talking about here.

    @ Snos – another success story, thanks. I consider you a friend too :)

    Strangely, I’ve met a couple of women like that on Bumpzee (looking for romance). But Bumpzee are very quick to remove these profiles. They trust their community members, and allow them to remove them instantly. MBL is frustrating in that anyone you don’t want to befriend does just sit there, so it makes it hard to check for people you DO want to be friends with.

    @ Katie – “Sometimes you can be closer to online friends than real life ones!” You make a valid point, sometimes anonymity can allow a certain frankness that real life doesn’t permit.

    All friendships have their own dynamic – as you say, it’s up to you and your friend to define the friendship.

    Thanks to you all for your comments.

  12. Karen (Miscellaneous Mum)on 25 Jul 2007 at 11:10 am

    I’m writing about this topic on another blog I contribute to in a week or so’s time, so I must say I’m soaking up all these comments with interest.

    I must say, with me, it depends on the person. Sometimes it is more like a ‘pen pal’ as Fat bastard says; other times I put a person as high up on the list as any IRL friend I have. That’s not to be derogatory though! It’s like life – we can’t all be as good a friends with one person as another.

    I wouldn’t hesitate to say ‘my friend meg’ however :) πŸ˜‰

  13. Megon 25 Jul 2007 at 1:33 pm

    @ Andy – but what is the “next level”? I agree that you do get a lot of extra info from a “face to face” meeting that you probably wouldn’t get online, but sometimes this “noise” can interfere with the conversation.

    @ Karen – absolutely, we all have different level of friendships, and some are deeper than others. But I don’t think that not having “met” someone precludes a deep friendship.

    “I wouldn’t hesitate to say β€˜my friend meg’ however” – thanks, and ditto. Maybe one day well progress to “my good friend” πŸ˜‰ :)

  14. Bengton 28 Jul 2007 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks Meg for a really interesting post. I consider internet friendships to be real, over the years I have gotten to know people over the net that I consider real good friends.

    Internet friendships are somewhat different from real life ones but they are still friendships. Meeting online friends in real life often takes it to another level though, up or down :-)

  15. Datedemonon 29 Jul 2007 at 11:17 am

    Yes online friendships I think are definitely “real.” There are a ton of online friendships that translate into “real” world friendships. Also there are a lot of friends I have met outside of the internet that I talk to online. Also of note, not only can these online relationships be friends, but can be significant others as well =P

  16. Tim Nashon 31 Jul 2007 at 1:01 am

    Friends is a pretty loose term in modern society anyway, I guess its use on the internet has changed as the separation between social groups have changed. I know plenty of people on-line many I would consider friends (in the traditional sense) as I have a personal connection to without having had a physical connection indeed I would go so far as to say that I have more “friends” that I have never met then those I have.

    It feels odd when you are talking to some one or about some one online where you haven’t had a physical relationship (not that type!) how to describe them we can hardly go round calling people “cyber based associates or people with whom I have had some contact with” so we lump these people as friends, plus as Bloggers and commenter’s we are one big happy family.

    So my friends I think its a term you just will have to live with.

  17. Megon 31 Jul 2007 at 12:03 pm


    Well said :)

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  19. TDavidon 13 Sep 2007 at 9:22 pm

    I tend to use “met randomly” the most with Facebook. The word ‘friend’ on the internet with people you’ve never met is a curious one. To answer your questions.

    “Are internet friendships β€œreal”?”
    Sure, they can be real, but just because you accept a friend invitation on a social network doesn’t make that person a ‘friend.’

    “Does friendship require meeting IRL (In Real Life)?”
    No, but it requires more than being approved as a friend in a social network.

  20. Pete Whiteon 25 Sep 2007 at 1:52 am

    Meg, thank I consider you a friend to – if i added you on facebook I would simply put ‘Met Randomly – through blog”.

  21. Jennyon 28 Sep 2007 at 5:11 am

    I don’t have friends. Other then the ones I have been talking to for years. I do however have people that I comment back and forth with. And email occasionally. :) But no friends.

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