Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Friendships and the Internet

For a long time I have been asking myself if it is really possible to have an honest friendship on the internet. At one time, I even posed that question at an internet site that I went to and the answers I got back were varied. However, the consensus seemed to be that because the internet is one dimensional, in order have a true friendship, people would have to go beyond that dimension of typing words on a screen. That was my own opinion too.

I currently only post at two websites, both of which are devoted to auto racing. I am a NASCAR fan and I try to attend two races a year. One of the very first events I ever attended, I met someone from the racing site at the event and the experience was extremely positive. So now every race I attend, I try to meet at least one person from my racing websites if possible. Over the last several years, I have met 18-20 different people from my racing websites, some of them more than once.

Some of those people had become friends as far as I was concerned. We had exchanged Christmas cards and even phone calls over the years. But is this true friendship? I really do not know. What I do know is when you are able to put a face and a voice with a name and their posts on a website, you have a better understanding of that person and you tend to see them as a real person, not just a user name and an avatar.

So I go back to can you make friends on line? Two recent incidents have me questioning if you really can or what is a friendship. The first incident involves a person that I had known for over four years, whom I considered a friend. This person did something that was very hurtful and insulting without provocation on my part and for no apparent reason. Since then, I contacted that person, but have not heard back. So unless I get an apology, whatever friendship there may have been is probably now dead. Or the real question is was this just an acquaintship, and not a friendship? Afterall, is not friendship a two way street?

The second incident was something said to me in an email by friend whom I had known for a long time and greatly respect. This person's computer died about a year ago and he never bothered to get it replaced. This past weekend, he borrowed someone else's computer and left me the following note which really made me think about the value of friendships or acquaintanceships formed on the net.

"One thing I have discovered over the last year or so, is that there's a big old world out there, and life is fun again. I don't mean any disrespect to anyone, but I find that I'd rather be out in it, than be online."

Looking back over the years, I have traded the time I spent watching television for being on line. A lot of that time is spent reading, but also I do exchange a lot of instant messages and emails with my on line "friends." So perhaps what my second friend was saying IS very valid. It sure made me take a hard look at defining what is a friendship with others on line. Are these relationships really friendships or are they something else? Then I started thinking, if I wasn't on line, I might not have met some of these people whom I have come to care about. But I also might not be questioning if you can form real friendships on line, would I?

So the question still remains. How different are your relationships and friendships on the internet compared to real life? Or are they really that different?


Anonymous said...

There's a popular country song that's called "Find Out Who Your Friends Are"..

You find out who you're friends are
Somebody's gonna drop everything
Run out and crank up their car
Hit the gas get there fast
Never stop to think 'what's in it for me' or 'it's way too far'
They just show on up with their big old heart
You find out who you're friends are.

While the 'friends' that I have made online, can't physically be there, I still feel as though I've made many true friends online.

I quit smoking nearly three years ago, and never would have been able to do so without the help and support of my online friends. I've had alot of things going on in my life over the last several years, and feel I'm better for having people online to share the ups and downs with.

The internet allows me access to friends I'd never have the pleasure of knowing otherwise. I have folks that I consider true friends online as close as an hour away, and as far reaching as New Zealand. They're spread all over the USA, FL (NC), NJ, TX, CT, etc...

Anonymous said...

'True' friend is so hard to define. I think, for me, there are different definitions of 'friend'...and, so, yes, I can have real friendships online...just as I can have a real friendship with my friend that I only get to talk to through emails because our lives are so far apart and so widely different.

Having met a few of my 'website friends', I can honestly say that I felt immediately at home with them!