Internet vs "Real Life" Friends : LUSENET : Naked Eye : One Thread

Do you think of the people you "meet" over the internet as "real friends" or do you set them aside - apart from your other friends into a distinct category?

-- Catherine (, October 13, 1999


This subject came up recently on a mail list to which I sometimes subscribe. The old argument about real relationships versus cyber relationships.

It bugs me everytime it comes up.

The person sitting behind the keyboard, any keyboard, is real (not to say they are presenting themselves accurately, necessarily, but they're real) - therefore any relationship with them is, by default, real.

It is simply a relationship which counts on a venue other than "the coffee shop down the street" (or whatever) to function.

But support, kindredness, even love - can all be communicated through the ether. And what else, after all, is a relationship?

Does it mean that a blind person, who cannot see, is not establishing "real" relationships? Or a deaf person who cannot hear?

I have a lot of friends that I communicate with via the Internet. Some are friends from outside the net - but distance makes the internet the best place to communicate. Some are people I met on the internet and then in person and the internet remains the best way to communicate. Some are people I have never met in person but with whom I have established what I consider to be genuine friendships.

Some of it is that I am more comfortable in writing than in any other orm of communication - some of it is that I am such a ... um ... unusual person that the internet, with its vast array of citizens and easy accessibility, provides the best mix of people from which to cull the "like-minded".

Thoughts, anyone?


-- Catherine (, October 13, 1999.

Ohhh - hoooo - juicy responses!

It's interesting to see how the distinction between so-called RL and VL is blurring as each new generation "comes of age" with a different dependence upon, exposure to and comfort with technology.

I suspect my mother, for instance, will always consider people met on the internet as "not real" - although I wonder if she considers *herself* not real as she sits behind *her* keyboard and types. Heh.

On the other hand, my kids accept the reality of "this is ________. I met them on the internet" without so much as a blinking eye, really. They've met a few people I met in this venue and the experience has always been positive. But one would expect the same ratio of positive to negative as in "RL", I suppose.

For me, people are people - and I have friends I met in the park, friends I met at work and fiends I met on the internet.


-- Catherine (, October 14, 1999.

Oh, yikes, this is a hard one for me. Very hard. I'm not sure that I can adequately say *how* hard. I met a friend from a chat room IRL (one of several). I guess IRL I had "victim" tatooed a bit more visibly on my forehead than he'd been able to discern over the ether, because the relationship took a profoundly confusing turn. He was married, I was married - he got very "sincere" and involved, I didn't run like I should have (like I might have if the relationship was IRL only) - it turned confusing, then rapturous, then miserable, then he was, from one day to the next, gone. Just gone. No word, no smile, no discussion, no explanation, no "running into him" at the grocery, no phoning him to ask what's up - gone. Literally vanished from the known Multiverse. I found out much later he'd moved to another Internet "forum" - greener pastures, I dunno. Changed his ISP, his email, etc. etc. By then the damage to *my* life was done (and by me, I'm not blaming anyone else). So I dunno. I used to be *HUGELY* less guarded on the 'Net than I am now. And I used to be anonymous (sort of). I thought of it is somehow Other Than Fully Real, this etherial business. I was VERY wrong. I thought I could reveal myself more fully with words (being this verbal kinda person anyway). I can - but I don't, much, anymore. People can vanish in ways they cannot in non-cyber life. People lie. A lot. As a hobby. For fun. It's dangerous out here for little breaky hearts - more than face-to-face. You have no cues to a person's character other than their words. IMO, that's not enough. Catherine (the Cynical) Lessons learned, I guess. But this was easily one of the most painful ones of my life.

-- Catherine (, October 13, 1999.

I definately believe my internet friends are "real" friends. The conversations I have via email and forums are as pleasant, entertaining, informative and sometimes irritating as those carried on in person. Many friends I have made over the years online I count as treasured friends -- people who share common interests with me that my local friends may not. My favorite editor and writing critic exists solely in this medium. Only on the internet have I found readers as voracious as I am -- so they are always ready to discuss the latest great read with me.

Still, this medium has it's very real limitations. There is no body language. There are creeps. There are liars. People present their best side, leaving out details about themselves that we would easily learn in person and might find unacceptable in a friend.

I love this medium though,like any form of communication, it has limitations. Yet, without the internet I would have missed expanding my circle of friends to include some wonderful people. The internet is a great place to make new friends...additional friends; it is not a replacement for the friends who drink coffee with us at the kitchen table and drag us out to lunch when we're blue. I'm blessed in having friends in both worlds.

-- Michele (, October 13, 1999.

"Reader, I married him."

Heh. Aside from that particular (and rather exceptional for me) case... It's hard to say. I think that on a superficial level I don't divide between 'real' and 'Internet' but on 'people I talk to about *stuff*' and 'people I only make idle chatter with'. On a deeper level, the division is not with text vs. flesh but that I have a lot of difficulty accepting anyone as a Real Friend. There are a lot of people I like, but I have to convince myself they like me back. And then, later, I have to convince myself that they MORE than like me back, that I matter to them and they love me and.... Well, let me put it this way. I had to be both desperate AND have known the person well for years to be able to call at 3 am and wake him up to ask him to let me babble a bit until I was unwound enough (from major emotional crises) to be able to sleep instead of pacing round the apartment filled with horrible images and deep-pit-of-despair thoughts. He was, of course, more than happy to oblige. And the next day, I realized that *objectively* there were probably at least 8 people in my then-city I could've called, who would have been just as willing to take care of me. But I was *SURE* at the time that all of them would disown me and never want to be my friend again if I asked them for anything. Hmmm. I guess what I'm saying is that it just takes a Very Long Time for me to go from 'wow, I really like this person' to 'I completely trust this person and I know I'm their friend too'. And longer than usual for the less intense things. The few exceptions to this have either been spectacular or horrid for all parties involved.

-- Marianne Aldrich (, October 13, 1999.

it depends on how long, and how well, i know them. it takes me a long time to feel close to people, usually, so in some ways it's more comfortable for me to get to know people online. i can ease into getting to know someone slowly, online. i feel really fond of a lot of people i've never met in person, and may never meet that way (although i'd like to). i think of those people as friends.


-- Ann Monroe (, October 13, 1999.

I've met about 75% of my current circle of friends--both local and far-flung--over the net. about 98% of them I met because of the net, for one reason or another, even if we'd never talked online before the fact. (This is what happens when you travel in geek circles.)

I don't seperate the two categories out. I have online friends who i've not yet met, but i don't think of them any differently than i would a "real life" friend.

When my dear, dear friend David died at 19 of respiratory arrest, I never even paused to consider that i'd never actually met him; I grieved anyway, as he'd been a close friend of mine for three years and the thought of never seeing him again, either online or real life, filled me with terror and sorrow. I still miss him, and i still sometimes cry about the fact that this brilliant boy is no longer in my life. It doesn't make any difference to me that i never actually saw him in real life. My one regret about never having met him was that for the same reason I never met him (he lived in boston and i lived in Seattle), i didn't get to attend his funeral.

No seperations for me, thank you.

-- Kris (, October 13, 1999.

I tend to think of them as "real" friends, but always aware that it's more fragile than IRL relationships, that it lacks some of the essential signals that keep us from misunderstanding each other quite as much in real life. (And look at the track record of IRL relationships! Not good.)--Al

-- Al Schroeder (, October 13, 1999.

I hope this is not too long, but....

Just what the nature of cyber relationships is fascinates me. Iknow most people on the net only via their " writing voices". Yet I've formed some strong relationships, some good and some bad, and somehow I've actually begun to depend on them, maybe even on the bad ones. They all certainly do serve some purpose or meet some need in my lifein our lives.

Many of us share a lot of stuff with "strangers" that we would never have shared in so short a time with real people, partially due to the anonymity of the situation, I think. Is it like being in the confessional? Makes one think about that concept, eh? Maybe they were on to something there. At different times we all may have played either the role of confessor and absolver/advisor.

I may tend to hold back a little more because I am less anonymous now than I used to be in my cyber circles, but I still find myself sharing most of my feelings and lots of my opinions freely.

I've met a few people f2f and mostly I have not been disappointed. In one instance meeting the person did result in not continuing the friendship. I'm not certain why. It was just awkward, and obviously so for both of us. Sometimes you just don't "click." Maybe it had something to do with the diffference between writing and speaking.

I think the key to the internet world is simply connection. The need to connect, one human to another is so powerful, and the cyberworld is very much about that need. Sometimes people say that it's an addiction, it's a sickness, it's unhealthy to spend so much time on the computer. I think it's simply fulfilling the most basic human need.

I could make a case for cyberspace actually being more real that "real-life". In fact, I think it may be because people in real life have become so distant from each other that there now exists a strong need to connect in some other way. The internet has made that a possibility and as people come online they are truly able to experience connection at a completely different level. Sure it's addicting. It feels good to be able to share with other humans. In a lot of cases, it's our minds we are sharing, our selves which we share without regard to physical appearance, disability, race, religion, ethnicity, etc.

True, some only seek the casual relatonship, but I believe more seek deeper connections. We build entire new communities which are based on our needs, communities where that connection can and has happened. Having been a member of an online community of women for almost two years, I have seen some amazing things happen there. Just like any community, relationships are not always positive. There may be disagreements, and the edges of anger and irritation are often present, but seldom do true flame wars break out. Support is incredible and constant most of the time.

I work alone, and I don't have that daily interaction with workmates that some others do. Of course, I do I have a circle of non net friends, but a lot of them are busy a lot of the time, not instantly accessible. On the net, I can just sign on and someone in my little community will likely be there for a chat or a joke a discussion on current affairs or even for advice if Iask.

I realized how real all of these cyber friends were to me when my cyber buddies were suddenly almost "disappeared" for about a week because of problems with the server. That gave me a much more concrete sense of what they meant in my life, and of how how they were just as important and real to me as my non net friends. The idea of it all just accidentally being deleted without warning is really something scary to think about.

-- Jo (, October 13, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ