Virtual Friends… Are they Real Friends? You Bet!

Like to Read? Join a virtual book club.

Like to Read? Join a virtual book club.

One of the most amazing things to come out of this explosion of social media is the friendships that you can make. We teach our children that you have to be careful on the internet. That these “friends” they meet on chat, gaming or fan boards may not be who they think they are. They could be trolls, adults posing as kids, or just completely different personas. How you can’t give out personal information or passwords and that you must be very careful.

All of that is true. But we’re not 12 year old kids. We’re adults and we are on platforms where it becomes very easy to interact with a host of people based on our interests. While true that your first encounter with a virtual person may be fraught with the unknown, one of the wonderful things about social media is that you can regularly interact with these people and filter out the ones who are not who they say they are (or who you simply find you don’t bond with or share their values)

I’m on special Facebook groups filled with individuals who are on there based on our shared interests. Right off the bat I have something in common with these people and I’d call many of them friends. And some of them really good friends. These are people that if I’m frustrated or bored or just want to chat, I feel very comfortable simply IMing them and saying hello. If I need advice, I just do another message and lo and behold, they respond. We regularly play FB games as well and do the little chat sections there too. These people live all over the country – heck, some on the other side of the world, but I can call them friends.

On Twitter I get to interact with peeps on a whole different level. It’s usually funny little quips and comments back and forth. It’s very hard to be “intimate” in 140 characters, so you glean from a person just enough based on what they share. But after a few dozen interactions over months, you start to know people and can chat with them. That’s where specialized lists on twitter come in. You can select a smaller group of people and just visit those lists to see what they’re up to.

You see, each of us seeks things we might be missing in other areas of our lives. It’s why we have friends in the first place. We might have the one friend that likes to go out and party, we have the friend we can have private conversations with, the friend that likes to cook, the one that will let you cry on her shoulder and never judges. The friend that gives you the attention to simply speak to them about your feelings and they don’t walk away or do something else – the ones that make you feel valued and worthy and that what you have to say is important enough to give you the attention you deserve to simply listen. At least virtually. 🙂 Now, with social media, you have outlets for all these things.

So for people frustrated that they are not being heard in their personal lives, seek out new friends online. There is absolutely no reason in this day and age to remain sitting in your house alone with no one to talk to. While real life interaction is always preferred, this is a very fine second option. Find a like-minded Facebook group, go find a cool hangout on Google+, play games on FB, interact on Twitter. Respond to people. If you’re an author and want advice, there are literally thousands of authors on FB in groups – groups to tweet, groups for blogs, groups for advice. Do you love a certain writer? There are groups to obsessively drool over them. Do you like to cook? Are gluten-free? Groups for those. Just be aware, though. I’ve found on some groups the “flavor” of the people wasn’t to my personal liking. I’ve actually left some groups because they were filled with people with a different value system than I had. Or they were angry people, or complainers. You see, a virtual group really is like real life cliques. They morph into their own category of people and you could choose to remain with them or leave. The great thing about social media is it’s a simple “stop notifications” button, leave group or just delete and you’re done and ready to find another group that better fits your needs.

Yes, you need to be careful, yes you must remember that sometimes people are not how they appear, but after a while, just like in real life, you will be able to recognize the real friends you are making. So your lesson for today is go out right now, type in your hobby in a search button and find a new friend. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Love to hear your thoughts.

20 thoughts on “Virtual Friends… Are they Real Friends? You Bet!

  1. Elyse, you raise a great point. Especially since I am the parent of a three-year old (separated from my wife), it can be difficult to socialize in real life with so many responsibilities on my shoulders. I’ve also found that the fear factor of wondering if the people you’re interacting with really are who they say they are, is only one part of the equation when you meet people online. Sometimes if you’re limited in terms of your ability to meet people in real life (due to parenting demands), online friendships can be that much more important to pursue and nurture. Thanks, again, for making this important observation.

    • I agree and thanks so much for reading. I’ve some wonderful friends online I’ve now known for years and I’ve never actually met them in person but they are literally closer to me and my heart than some members of my family. Good luck to you!

  2. Absolutely agree. I count quite a few ‘real’ friends on social media now, and I have actually met two of them in person as a result of it! As you say, with a bit of savvy you can weed out the people who aren’t genuine. Love my ‘virtual’ friends! 🙂

  3. You are so right about finding groups of people with interests you have in common. Having these friends provides an outlet so that I don’t bore to death the rest of my family talking about my interests they don’t share. Don’t forget blogs, I love reading food blogs and enjoy following them and getting to know the bloggers. I think the key is keeping balance between our virtual world and our day to day relationships.

    • Balance is so key, but you’re right – to find those gems of people where you can totally obsess over your shared interests and not bore the members of your family? Priceless!

  4. I have never been a social butterfly, always preferred to read a book than actually go out and meet people. But that was before I became a writer…
    These days I meet a lot of lovely people through my interaction with like minded people on social media, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole wonderful experience….

  5. This is so true! Many of the friends I’ve met online I’ve gotten to meet in person at conferences or other events and it’s been so fun. Social media has its risks but there are also wonderful benefits in connecting with others. Thanks Elyse.

  6. I made friends with a small group of people who were spread across the United States. I don’t know why, but I wanted to meet as many of these similar people as possible. I traveled a lot and met them. I have been more than just cyber-friends with them. Yet I have many more cyber-friends and most have revealed their true colors over time – fortunately, most for the better. Still, I remain somewhat wary of what I post and who I “talk” to for not only MY protection, but also for the protection of my grandchildren who know they shouldn’t talk to strangers but… I know for a fact, there is easy stranger-danger – I was a “birthday/party” clown for hire and one young boy (grandson of a friend) was always leery of strangers including me. I visited as a clown and he walked right up to me, totally unafraid. That moment scared me and I then understood the power I wielded as a clown. Clowns are not strangers to children. To some extent, the internet has made “clowns” and “children” of us all as we approach total strangers like a child to a clown.

  7. Your post has lots of great points about finding true friends online. Some you interact with on social media are only in your timeline for a short while, but others you meet, you have something that happens after a getting to know you period. From short comments, to longer messages, then exchanging phone numbers, you begin talking and texting in real life, then as happened with me and my best friend (who lives very far away), we can and do skype, and face time. We send gifts, and we know each others families. It has been very rewarding for both of us, sharing our interests, hopes, dreams, supporting each other through illnesses and just being silly. All of this because of one random comment online. You’re online friends can become true friends.

    • That is just wonderful to hear. I do agree with what you said above too. There are some people I’ve had wonderful interaction with, but they were “in my social media world for only a short while, while others have stayed around for years. But like life and in person friends, it’s work. You have to be willing to put in the time, you know? Thanks so much for commenting!

  8. It’s very true! I’ve met some great people online, and in the past couple of years have taken a couple of those virtual friendships to the IRL (In-Real-Life) stage. It’s spectacular. 🙂 Great post!

  9. Good post on an important topic – truth is, there is no such thing as a ‘virtual’ friend. Whether someone is who they say they are or not, it’s all real one way or another, certainly in it’s impact on someone. This is a topic we’ll be hearing about more and more, thanks for sharing.

    • I think we will with the changing world – as with everything – you remain smart and keep in contact and you can easily figure out the ones that are genuine. It’s amazing to me how after a while someone’s true colors can come out.

    • You are so right! And I’ll tell you something else – I feel closer to some of my virtual friends than folks in my own family. There are some virtual people I turn to all the time, for good news, bad news, help and in times of need. And I’ve never even met them.

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