Online friends…are you for real?

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If you were to check my Face Book page, you’d find that I have 200+ friends! Maybe that number is small compared to how many FB friends you have. But I’m a bit of an introvert so it’s a lot of friends for me!

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Of course, most of those FB friends I’ve never met face to face. And I know very little about them. Some play Candy Crush. Some like cute animals. Some are writers like me. Some “like” my posts and I “like” theirs. But when I think about what a friend is, I’d say most of my FB friends are really acquaintances.

I do actually communicate with some of my online friends. We comment on each others FB posts, exchange emails, and even help each other out. But are they really friends? Can you develop close friendships without ever meeting face to face?

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When we communicate in person, we pay attention to more than just words. We watch expressions and body language, we listen to tone and volume of voice, and we notice attitudes. When you’re just reading words, you can’t always identify the sarcasm, seriousness, sensitivity, or humor–even with emoticons.

 

After you’ve posted or hit “send,” have you ever worried that your email or FB post might be misunderstood? Will my 200+ friends misunderstand this post and “unfriend” me?

Even considering the limitations with this method of communication, I do believe that some of the people I’ve met online seem to really “get” me. And I “get” them. I can’t help but think that if we lived nearby we’d be close friends.

While all friendships are about relationship, there are different levels of friendship. Close friends have kindred spirits. And close friendship takes work. Friends support one another, laugh together, cry together, and listen to each other. They get to know each other on a deeper level, allowing themselves to be vulnerable as they share things that they don’t share with acquaintances. Friends help each other, without counting the costs. Sometimes this means making a tough call or giving hard advice. A friend wants the best for the other, and so might even risk damaging the relationship for the sake of their friend. These are the type of friendships that endure.

I have friends like this that I only communicate with online. We might not email or message every day, but we are there for each other. We share things in common that are very important to us, like writing and faith. We help each other with time-consuming projects, like critiquing each others stories. We’ve gotten to know each other through sharing our goals, joys, and the struggles we face. We’ve even prayed for each others intentions with novenas and fasting.

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So I say, “Yes! While it’s important to choose your close friends wisely and to understand the different levels of friendship, online friends can be real friends!”

Do you have close friendships with people you’ve never met face to face? Share your experience in the comments.

This post is dedicated to Susan Peek, writer of saint stories for children and YA, and Carolyn Astfalk, writer of Christian romance and blogger extraordinaire.

 

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