Ruby brought up a subject today that I’ve been pondering for awhile and have been meaning to write about.  The subject is friendship. 

What is a friend?  I think MySpace and Facebook, et al, have diluted the concept of the word.

Will you be my friend?   Can I be your friend?   I have 1.5 million friends!

MySpace friends may or may not be people you actually know anything about, thus stretching the word out to its broadest definition as “one who patronizes a group.” But that is not the commonly used form of the word in our society.  To most, a friend is more than just a smiling picture on a website.  So what exactly do we mean when we say someone is a friend?

To me (and I can only speak for myself here), first and foremost, friendship is a trust relationship.  Friends are people you can confide in without fear.  They’re people you can say the most outrageous things to without worrying about offense.  They will listen when you cry or complain.  They will laugh when you laugh.  They are someone you share interests with.  Friends are not jealous of your other friends and will not gossip about you behind your back.  If you’re lucky enough (like me) to have a really old friend, you probably have a secret language with references no one else understands.  They probably know all your recurring dreams and what book you’re currently reading.  If you’re a women, you know about your best girlfriend’s sex frequency and when her periods are and how bad the cramps were this month. 

So here’s the question of the day. Can a person you know only through the internet be a real friend? 

In my opinion, the answer is yes, I think so.  Personal blogging is an exercise in trust.  You trust that what you write will be received in a compassionate way.  You slowly develop a network of like-minded bloggers and form a mutual admiriation society of sorts.  You slowly reveal bits of information that show your vulnerability and your strengths.  You share yourself with others and they with you. 

I don’t know the people I blog with in real life (except V).  I’ve never sat down with them and spent an afternoon just talking, and there’s a real possibility that we could find ourselves suddenly with nothing to say (ha!).  But here and now, we have a personal connection based on trust and similar likes/dislikes.  Perhaps we’re establishing a new paradigm for the term friend.   Some organizations, like BlogHer have a yearly convention where virtual friends meet and become real life friends.

Maybe the real test will be later, when some decide they just can’t write a blog anymore.  And that’s the rub, isn’t it?  Do we really expect to do this blogging gig forever?  And what happens then? 

I don’t know the answer and I guess it’s something we’ll all have to figure out someday.  In the meantime, I embrace my relationships I’ve built here and consider many of you friends.  I may not know when your last period was or who you’re currently shagging, but maybe I know what makes you cry and what makes your heart sing.  I can read your honest words and laugh at your outrageous humor and feel a connection with you, a real person, sitting at the other computer. 

So I open up this question to all of you:   Can a person you know only through the internet be a real friend?


23 Responses to “Friend”

  1. 1 V- August 7, 2007 at 9:31 pm

    I was pondering the exact same thing today, I even googled “pen pal” for inspiration, because it seems like blogging is today’s version of a pen pal.

    Some of my dearest friends I actually met online. I found a group of people with similar interests that were in the same city. We would spend our afternoons chatting online, while we were supposed to be ~gulp~ working. We still joke about the first time we actually met face to face. About 15 of us decided to meet for lunch. We were like nervous children at our first day of school. Awkward silences, afraid to look each other in the eye. We felt naked without our computers in front of us. We didn’t even know each other’s real names! We all went back to our computers and laughed at ourselves.

    We continued to meet in spite of that lunch and formed a very close bond. The awkwardness never returned. We have become like a family. We vacation together, some of us spend holidays together, we’ve had babies born, marriages, divorces, heated arguments and heart-felt appologies.

    And it’s not just the ones in town that have become friends. When an out of town member comes to kansas city, it’s like the prodical returning home. In return many of them have opened their homes to the KC folks when we’ve been traveling. It may be a unique cirmcumstance but it worked for us. Yes, I believe that internet friends can be real friends. Just ask Toast, Twitt, Tech, Slimm, Lumpy, Gonk and Mr Horsepower!

    V – I didn’t realize you met all of those folks online! I laughed when you described your first face to face meeting. It’s what I imagine would happen, so I’m pleased to know you got past that and continued to bond together. And NOW I know who you spend your Thanksgivings with!

  2. 2 Bella August 8, 2007 at 12:11 am

    In response to your question, “Can a person you know only through the internet be a real friend?” – First of all, the way your wrote this post is amazing and thoughtful. I wouldn’t have believed it years ago but since starting this blog less than a year ago, I absolutely believe that you can make real friends. I started out just writing about my day and feelings, and somehow found something so much bigger! I feel such a connection to some of the bloggers I have met. I’m getting to know them and myself all at the same time. I have a full life with a great husband, kids, and many TRUE best friends (several that I’ve known for a super long time and one that has been my best friend since I met her in kindergarten). But, I find myself thinking {man, I wish I lived by these people so we could meet up for coffee because it would be a BLAST} and I’m not worried in the least about their character, the ones I love to read, on my blogroll -because through their writings I’ve learned to trust. Just like you said. Amazing!

    Bella: I really wish we could meet up for coffee too. I think you and I would have a lot to laugh about! (how’s your weiner, by the way???) My first blog experience was a bust, but this time around it’s been amazing. I’m glad I tried it again because I’ve met some amazing people (including you!)

  3. 3 Deb August 8, 2007 at 5:26 am

    I absolutely believe that people I know only through the internet can be real friends. Many of the ones I have gotten closest to I’ve ended up meeting at some point, so do they still qualify as people I know only through the internet? Not completely, yet it is still true that I’d never have met them at all if it wasn’t for the internet. Friendship is so much about the emotional bonding between two people, and we can share so much through writing, that those bonds aren’t difficult to create, given care.

    It is fun to hang out with friends in person and split a bottle of wine, but…maybe it is just me, maybe it is that I’ve moved so often that I prevent myself from fully exploring that aspect of the places I live, but my “real life” friends tend to be hard to get in touch with, hard to track down. They’re busy, I’m busy, and in the end I actually get more supportive friendship from people I don’t rely on seeing face to face. My three best friends live in: NYC, Philly, England. I live in none of those places, have never lived in those places. I see my NYC friend more often than my local friends.

    I think the trust, the honesty, the caring, the support…those are the things that make a friendship. Online or offline, down the street, or across the ocean…I think the emotional bond matters more than physical proximity.

    Deb: I sat outside last night and realized that I have zero friends in the town I live in, and only a couple in this area. My best friend lives in TX and I haven’t seen her for a couple of years. I spend more time communicating in my online relationships than with my oldest friends! I think it’s hard for free thinkers like us to find other like-minded people, so we’re pretty lucky, really, to have these online friendships to connect us together. You’re right, the emotional bond matters more than the physical proximity – well put Deb.

  4. 4 Anthony North August 8, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Hi OB,
    I’ve travelled around so much that I’ve never actually gained long lasting friends. They have been like brief snatches of life, good while you’re with them, then gone, committed to memory.
    I suppose we can have friends on the internet, through blogging, once trust is built up, but could I suggest what we really become friends with is a ‘fragment’ of a life.
    In other words, it is friendship, yes, but of a different order. And in many ways, this could be a more satisfying friendship, for you’re less likely to get all those foibles that can so often cause trouble from too close a proximity.

    Anthony: I agree that online friendships tend to be only fragments of lives, or friendships of a different order. Well said – I couldn’t quite put my finger on that concept last night, but you filled in the blanks nicely.

  5. 5 poseidonsmuse August 8, 2007 at 9:58 am

    That was an extremely thought provoking post OB, and I have to admit (strangely enough), that I was thinking the same thing yesterday during my afternoon tea-break (I know…sounds a little old-fashioned and Victorian, but that’s my “thinking time”). Anyways, brilliant post! Absolutely hit the nail on the head for me.

    I would agree with you, that friendships can develop online. Time, trust, empathy and compassion are certainly required elements of this. Funny thing…a girlfriend of mine has been going through a difficult personal struggle of her own…and we are very close friends. And, although we can chat and share and truly “be” together, I was almost tempted to tell her to “Get a blog!”

    Now, how funny is that? Despite having a few very close and accessible girlfriends (in reality), I truly believe that my spiritual development has absolutely blossomed because of my online Goddess friends, in a way that isn’t possible in real life (because many of the people that I have met online, would likely not be very accessible in my real world due to geographical barriers and other social barriers – age, self-imposed restrictions etc. etc.). I also feel that Bloggers may reveal/bare a bit more of their true selves (sans facade, sans career…and can “be” their fundamental selves…).

    I have found that blogging has put me in touch with so many individuals, that regardless of culture, age, gender, location can truly share and experience life with you – yes, it is a “friendship of a different order,” but a friendship(s) nonetheless. Friends should help you grow, they should challenge you to become a better “self”, they should embrace you and give you a kick in the butt from time to time, but most of all – they should be available.

    Thanks so much for this post today OB…You touched on something that I had really begun to think about lately. I am proud to call you a friend. I would enjoy that coffee or tea break with you anyday…because I know that we are kindred souls…


    Well, someday (somedayyyyy….) I might just make it to your neck of the woods. (Actually downloaded a bunch of stuff about moving there after GWB got reelected and I was mortified about staying here under this crazy despot) and we can have that spot of tea or bottle of wine. Another thought I had is this: writing an essay (which might take an hour or two, depending), gives you a lot of time to ponder word use and placement which is a luxury not afforded with face to face or phone conversation. I find I’m much more articulate in my written words than I am verbally, enabling me to sound more coherent and concise. Oh, and I’ve had that same “get a blog!” thought too!

  6. 6 totaltransformation August 8, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    “MySpace friends may or may not be people you actually know anything about”

    In fact many are a combination of porn bots, bands, and multi-level marketing scams. But I guess people get a big ego boost out of counting them as friends.

    I try to be friends with pornbots but I’m always shunned! Maybe it’s my opposable thumbs they find repulsive.

  7. 7 pradapixie August 8, 2007 at 2:07 pm

    I think we can get to be real friends through this medium. We put so much trust in what we write and,certainly what I get back feels like real love and affection, from the people I consider my blog pals. I feel cherished and cared for in an instant way. I have always wantged someone to bear witness to who I am on a deeper level. And in writing my blog I get back others warmth and approval. Not of what I’ve done but of who I am and my struggle to find myself.
    And along the way I can give and receive to and from others then that works for me.

    We haven’t know each other long yet OB,but I am enjoying getting to know you and look forward to our contacts. And if America wasn’t so big I’d pop in for coffee this week from my hols in Philly that I go on tomorrow.
    Hugs and friendship.

    Pix: Have fun in Philly – haven’t ever been there (except a stopover in an airport, not much fun!), but hope to travel to the UK before I get too damn old! It’s wonderful to meet new people and I’m glad we’ve gotten to know each other in this brief time. I love your blog – very honest and entertaining.

  8. 8 Grace August 8, 2007 at 4:12 pm

    AWESOME post! I think ‘friend’ is a fluid term. Even in my ‘real’ life, I seem to have different sorts of friends. I’ve got the ones that will go to their graves with my secrets, and me – with theirs. I’ve got the type that’s more superficial – in fact, I wouldn’t tell them anything I wouldn’t want spread around. I’ve got ‘activity’ sort of friends. “Neighbor” sort of friends. “Ex” sort of friends.

    I’ve been blessed with a number of very powerful friendships with people I’ve met online. Because of the nature of my job (I sit in front of a computer all day), I can easily keep in touch with them.

    And I feel a strong kindship with so many people here in Blogland 🙂 Some I communicate with behind the scenes as well…Take all you Goddesses, for example. I would love love love to chat with each and everyone of you in ‘real’ time.

    I guess I go alot of gut feelings about a person…extending trust and friendship until it’s proven that it’s not a good idea.

    I agree that’s it’s probably not the best idea to extend trust & friendship until proven, but proving it on the internet is kind of hard I guess. I see that we’re all mature adults, mostly women, who seem to treat each other kindly and with compassion. And I’m assuming nobody’s a raving lunatic, but I don’t actually know anything of the sort. It’s been a very interesting ride on the blog train so far, and I’m glad you’re here with me.

  9. 9 poseidonsmuse August 8, 2007 at 5:02 pm

    OB – I find it hard to believe that you would find it easier to write a paragraph than articulate yourself in person…I’m sure that you are too hard on yourself! Anyways, if I were an American under the GWB Gong Show Regime, I would consider flying North too (by the way, you are welcome at my little ranch anytime…). And as far as writing goes – let’s suffice to say that you are honing your craft quite well my dear (you word usage and sense of articulation is fantastic!).

    Aw shucks, Muse, you’re too kind (more! more!). I’m still stuck on your wildflowers story (sniff) – powerful stuff kiddo.

  10. 10 rhosie August 8, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I think true freindship can be develop through virtually (especially through blogs). Because we learn our similarities and refelction of oneself to another.Despite of culture, races or belief we may stand to. still thats not an hindrance, and i think freindship does not limit the physical existance of such person.He/she maybe away but at some point,through words encouragement and inspiration she give’s you its like your just with that person.I believe the true foundation of freindship is trust.To trust a person whom you really dont know is much a test on how your freindship will grow.Ive got lots of virtual freind, whom I think they become a part of my life too.I may never yet seen them but they much mean to me………

    Rhosie: Thanks for stopping in! I liked your comment about how trusting a person you don’t really know is a test on how your real friendship will grow. It’s a leap of faith, isn’t it?

  11. 11 RubyShooZ August 8, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Hm, I inspired all of this in my bitch session (on someone else’s blog, not even my own) about how I was told rather scornfully that I was just a “computer friend” and I was summarily dismissed. With the click of a button – poof – you don’t exist.

    I’ve been meaning to write a post of my own about this but haven’t gotten around to it – I still might, I’ve got alot to say about it since I’ve “known” many people on the internet and gotten some not so nice surprises.

    Thanks OB and everyone else for posting your feelings on the topic.

    ~ RubyShooZ ~

    Peace, love and understanding.

    Ruby, I’d love to read more of your thoughts on this subject. I was thinking last night, after I read the comment that was made to you, that I’m lucky I haven’t been bitten by spiteful or hateful comments so far. I know a lot of people get hate comments and it just boils down to “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Which is not to say that constructive disagreement isn’t appropriate, but it can be done in a kind and thoughtful way. You can be assured I will never consider you “not a real friend” just because we’ve never met in person, because the person I see is smart and brave and funny and honest. And that’s good enough for me.

  12. 12 Simonne August 9, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Great post!!
    Ok Goddesses, here goes:
    I currently have very acute PMT – who knows when my period will come, it has free will – it’s always been a mystery to me. I’m clucky as all hell. I can barely walk right now and if I was in mortal danger and had to run for my life I’d seriously just have to lay down and die (see latest post if this makes no sense!). I’m currently trying to read about 6 books at once and therefore pretty much reading nothing. I’m seeing my spiritual healer tomorrow morning for a Metamorphasis session. I had my hair trimmed on friday. I’m an Aries. I last had sex about 4 days ago and I have reocurring dreams where I’m going blind.
    I adore my Goddess friends and would so love to sit and drown in a vat of coffee with you all 🙂

    Sharing time! I haven’t had a period in about 14 years (no innards!) but I have a recurring dream about being on my period. My hair needs coloring again and I have a weird chip in a back tooth but luckily have a 6-month checkup with the dentist next week. I don’t like the part of the country where I live, but won’t leave because my parents are here and are getting up in years. I don’t think I’m meant to be living here at all, but am thinking Portland OR would be right for me based on what I’ve read. I had sex yesterday and am not looking forward to my son moving back home in November because I won’t be able to walk around the house naked anymore. I hate TV game shows and refuse to watch them because the people on them embarrass me as a human being.

    Thanks, Simonne! Now let’s go jump into that vat of coffee.

  13. 13 Grace August 9, 2007 at 11:51 am

    ohhh, I didn’t type that last sentence well…

    What I meant to say was this: I DO extend Trust and Friendship…and withdraw it only AFTER something has happened – ‘proof’… even then, it would have to be something major because I’m also pretty forgiving person.

    Does that make sense??

    Grace – Oh, you’re so right dear. I think my reply to your last comment was not worded well also! Anyway, you’re a sweetie-pie, and the only other thrice-married (besides A-mum) that I know. I have the same philosophy towards people: Extend friendship and trust (unless there’s some kind of creep-out vibe) then withdraw if the other person gets icky. And I really don’t think that’s gonna happen with any of us – we rock! Oh and I still have dibs on the lead singer of the Gap Band…right?

  14. 14 poseidonsmuse August 9, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Did someone put the words “vat” and “coffee” together in the same sentence. “Where, where??….Can I jump in too?” Aw Ladies…we all Rock and we all love each other. BFF (Best Friends Forever…) Lol! Now how “Valley Girl” is that…[PM, you’ve lost it…]. Love y’all!!!! (even if I do sound like a bubbly air-head

    Coffee + Vat = BFF. Muse + coffee = Wild woman. Love you, Musie!

  15. 15 RubyShooZ August 9, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    BFF?? Oh man, somehow I’ve never liked that comment but I do like the feeling of it.

    I love you all, no matter what.

    ~ RubyShooZ ~

    Peace, love and undertanding.

    About 10 years ago my friend from TX and I bought those cheesy 1/2 heart necklaces on a lark. I think we were channelling our inner 10 year olds.

  16. 16 totaltransformation August 9, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I will be tagging you soon. Be prepared.

    I am girding my grits as we speak. Tag away, TT.

  17. 17 writerchick August 9, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Absolutely! Without a doubt. I have a really close friend, Michael, whom I met online but have never met face to face. I know all about his life and he about mine. We have the common bond of writing, being Irish and having the smart ass sense of humor. I don’t tell him about periods or stuff like that but I usually don’t tell anyone that. LOL. And too, all the people I’ve met through the blog are friends. I’d like nothing more than to hit the road and meet all of you. A blogroll road trip. Now that would be a hoot.

    WC – Oh, I like THAT! The Blogroll Road Trip. A one month trip across the country to meet The Goddesses and all the great writers I’ve met. Better yet, a chartered plane to take us to see our overseas friends. That way we could drink more.

  18. 18 anonymum August 10, 2007 at 1:27 am

    this is my first comment here ob (but i have been lurking and eavesdropping as i tend to do for while) but this was a post i couldn’t resist commenting on…
    absolutely it’s possible to have a friendship and/or connection with people you encounter on the net..
    we’re in oz, and most of my blogroll are in the states…my husband and i are currently saving like mad in order to able to get on a plane and go meet some of these people within the next 12-18 has made the world a lot smaller…so have programs like skype where you can actually talk…digital cameras allow you to see they don’t really have 3 heads and an axe behind their back ready to take your head off..i’ve come across so many people i really believe i could spend a lot of quality time with..these are people who know more abut me than some of the people i see everyday in “real” life..
    i’m with wc…a blogroll trip would be a hoot and we’d need a squillion to do it, but shoot! what a trip it would be…
    i tend to sometimes almost post in comments too…sorry! *looking ashamed…again*
    going home now

    A-mum: I’m glad I could lure you over into my little world (as she says, with absolutely no knife behind her back or extra appendages!). The world does seem so small these days, as you say, and sometimes it seems like it would be so easy to just cross the street, or go down to the coffeeshop and meet everyone for a chat and a latte. Wish it was that easy. Look me up if you pass thru the midwest on your sojourn!

  19. 19 Laurie Anne August 10, 2007 at 3:11 am

    This is very thought-provoking and timely to me. I often wonder how cool it would be to “meet” some people online…particularly the non bloggers who read my stuff. I know much less about them than they know about me.

    Would we like each other in “real” life…I muse?

    I don’t know. I know that this world is scewed and that when someone writes a morose post, a lot of people are quick to offer sympathy….but in real life, would they get sick of that shit? Relationships in real life stick their nose in your face, come over unnannounced, fart, belch, get sloppy drunk….they can get very real and very unpleasant at times.

    Here, the blogger is much more in control. I don’t know…I’m just tired…

    Laurie, that is so true. With writing there is the luxury of distance and the ability to put your best foot forward. Still, after finding people I have so much in common with, I believe at least a few of them could be considered friends in every aspect of the word. But you never know who will rub you the wrong way once you meet them and inhabit the same space. Interesting. Thanks for the comments!

  20. 20 RubyShooZ August 10, 2007 at 10:18 am

    I want it to be on a magic carpet!

    ~ RubyShooZ ~

    Peace, love and understanding.

    Oh yes! A magic carpet ride!

  21. 21 ~m August 15, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    I’m better friends with several people (bloggers) online than in real life. I know what’s going on in their life, their problems, their joys, their hang-ups.
    It’s a very interesting phenomenon.
    So I say yes, you can be “real” friends with someone you’ve never met.
    I’ll also play the devil’s advocate and ask if you think it would be different once you met face to face…
    Ah, with Annie and Moe (A-mum) it would be all good.
    I just know it.

    Ah ~m, for sure Annie & A-mum would be just the same in “real life” . Probably better in fact. (Don’t tell Moe, but I’ve got a little crush on A-pop now since she posted the pic of him in the Red Sox cap you sent him).

  22. 22 Tom Ponting December 29, 2009 at 4:36 am

    A friend is who share their thoughts, happiness, sad, worries and secret with each other. She/He will always be there when you need her/him. As long as you wish to share your happiness/sorrow. They will always support and give you a listening ear and assistance.

  1. 1 The “You and Google Image Search” Meme… « TotalTransformationTest Trackback on August 9, 2007 at 7:43 pm

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