Posted by: Liza Rosenberg | September 25, 2009

Friendship 2.0

I admit it. I love the Internet. I love the opportunities it offers, I love having so much information at my fingertips. I love social networking sites and chat applications, and I love the way the Internet makes it so easy for me to keep tabs on friends and loved ones, no matter where they are in the world. When you think about it, it’s quite amazing, really. We have this medium that allows us to reconnect with our past, to maintain ties with those who helped shape the people we are today. We are rekindling old friendships and reminiscing about our youth, remembering who we were and showing off the people we’ve become.

Thanks to the Internet, I have several real-life friends who I originally made contact with online. On the flip side of that, I’ve also got friends I’ve met only a few times – amazing, wonderful friendships maintained almost solely over the Internet. I have friends of friends I’ve “met” through Facebook, some of whom I’ve met in real life, but many of whom, I haven’t.

And speaking about those friends you don’t know, the ones you’ve never met… The Internet has managed to create this whole new breed of friend. You’ve never seen them in person and maybe never will. It might begin with a few thoughtful comments left on someone’s blog or exchanges in an online forum. It could start when one friend sends an email to a group of their friends and includes you in the group. Those initial comments and emails set off a chain of responses, and before you know it, years have passed and you find yourself with a group of “friends” scattered throughout the world, friends whose voices you’ve never heard, friends whose laughter is expressed to you through terms like “LOL” (Laughing Out Loud) or “ROFLMAO” (Rolling On the Floor Laughing My Ass Off). The possibilities are endless, with paths crossing in the most random of ways, creating connections and sparking friendships.

But that seems weird, doesn’t it? Friends you’ve never met? Good friends you’ve never met? Developing feelings for someone you’ve never met? And on the face of it, it does sounds rather bizarre. Think about it. You exchange emails where you share your thoughts and dreams and even just the more mundane aspects of your life. You make each other smile and laugh (or at least that’s what you imagine you’re doing, since you can’t actually know for sure), and you support one another through the difficult times. On the one hand, you’re missing out on basics like body language and speech nuances, but on the other hand, the power of the written word can be, shall we say, awesome. But still. Are these relationships real? Can an ongoing written exchange of hopes and ideas truly be as good as the “real” thing? Can it be better? I know what I think.

How about you? What do you think?

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  1. Friendship 2.0 – friends you’ve never met, I have found, is far safer than reconnecting with old friends and even friends.

    In fact, I think I’m going to opt for this Friendship 2.0 thing all around. I thought old friendships were sacred and safe. I was wrong.

  2. Just recently corrected myself from “friends I’ve never met” to “friends I haven’t met yet”. I live in hope! 🙂

  3. Absolutely they’re real. Abso-freakin’-lutely — forgive my grammar infraction. And when you do get to meet them, it’s even better than before. Always.

    I speak from experience — very happy experience.

  4. Well, few virtual friends I have ‘met’ online have remained so – I either meet them and they become real friends, or they stop being friends altogether.

    I believe at least a little bit of offline friendship is necessary… even if it was a while back.

    But I do believe in the power of web 2.0 to keep a friendship alive… in this, yes! Otherwise, my life would be so dull..

  5. I love that the automatically generated related link to your post is: “Head of Roman Catholic Church in England warns against the dangers of SMS, …” 😀

    Friendship is a complicated yet simple thing. We share, we learn, we experience, we enjoy, we grieve, we laugh. On line or off, it all feels pretty real to me.

  6. Meeting my favourite bloggers has been fun and very exciting. I loved them just as much in person as I did online.

  7. Some of my very dearest friends I’ve never met face to face. Others, when we finally did meet after years of correspondance, it really was like two old friends, no hesitation, no awkwardness.

    And then there are the newer friends I’ve met through my blog who’ve gone on to become IRL friends – interesting, fun, super cool people, and great lunch dates to boot ;-). (Speaking of which, are you around on Sukkot? I’m thinking it’s long past time for that pitcher of margaritas by the jacuzzi.)

  8. Sometimes it’s easier to bare ‘all” to someone who is thousands of miles away. Sometimes when people meet after long exchanges, it gets better and sometimes it doesn’t. But in a way , it gives meaning tot the ‘we are all connected ” theory , in that many people share our thoughts, feelings, views , even some with whom we don’t ‘connect” face to face.

  9. Rica: What happened? Drop me a line offline if you need to vent.

    Beth: You were one of my inspirations for this post! I feel like I know you so well! 🙂 One of these days…

    Trollmamma: Don’t hold back on me. Tell me what you really think! 😉 And by the way, with little exception, I’m inclined to agree.

    Mo-ha-med: Hmmm… I’ve got a few friends (such as the lovely and charming Beth from above) who I’ve had for a few years now. We’ve never met (I live in hope), but I think if the spark is there, it can work.

    nrg: That link is too funny!

    I think you’re right. I “talk” to you more now than I did when we were both living in the US. Of course, we also had a very solid foundation to build on…

    Fay: I totally agree with you! Some of my closest friends now are people I originally connected with through blogging, and I’m always happy to meet people I’ve met online. Most of the bloggers I’ve met have been local (like Robin from Israel, who also commented here), but I also had the opportunity to meet a really terrific Norwegian blogger several years ago when he visited Israel, and even arranged a meeting between nrg and a Jordanian blogger friend living in Sweden a couple years back, when he visited Norway.

    Robin from Israel: I know what you mean, though initially, it would sometimes take on this “blind date” feeling, where I’d wonder if the other person would like me as much in person as they did online, and whether the connection would be as strong in real life as in virtual life.

    I’m working a few days during Sukkot, but not the whole time. Let me see what we can work out. 🙂

    Leonel: I know it’s easier for me to bare all with someone so far away (I think we discussed this topic once).

    I agree with your theory that people can be connected that way, but is it simply a connection, or are the people considered friends? What did you mean by “some with whom we don’t ‘connect’ face to face”? People who never meet in real life, or people who do, but that the spark that existed online doesn’t translate to real life?

  10. I meant that I have met people who were facebook friends initially, in real life, and sometimes you don’t connect as well face to face. So the ‘spark’ that was there online, isn’t there face to face. Yet still, they share our thoughts, feelings, views and there was a “real connection’ online, but it just falls flat in REAL life. However, it’s still a connection…

  11. and I think that in this world of trans-continental real time communication and the fact that people hardly have time for REAL encounters ( maybe it’s just cape Town, as I don’t find this to be particularly true elsewhere ) if you find someone who at leats ‘on paper’ shares your values, views, humour etc. it is a friendship. I am more in touch with you for example than a lot of mt real life friends, especially when I have the time, so id depends on ones definition of ‘friends’ which is going to be subjective at best?

  12. What do you think?

    I thinks yes 😉

    Of course, body language is important, but bloggers don’t have a lot of body language anyhow.

    Gmar hatima tova.

  13. I think that most of it goes in our minds. I will explain. All those relationships or friendships can be “done” using the written word or even acronyms, since what counts in the end is the scene/theme/story built with inside our mind. All the interpretations of the word, gestures and senses are done there building some inside feeling and image of the external world. While this is not new, it is still amazing how it can be done by just words and how deep and “real’ it looks.
    Again, a good book can do the same but it doesn’t have the feeling of a dialog with a “real person” although it is a dialog with the author inner world. So a good book means an author which manages to transfer to the reader the image of its mind in a very good way.

    What do you think?

  14. Leonel: I guess I’ve been mostly lucky so far, as nearly everyone I’ve met in real life following a period of online friendship has turned out to be pretty amazing, and in some cases, the relationships have become a lot stronger. Some have petered out, though not due to problems. I guess they’d just run their course at a certain level.

    I agree that the definition of “friends” is subjective, which is reflected, I think, in some of the other comments here. I think all of this social networking and online connecting has allowed this definition to be blurred in ways that simply weren’t fathomable in the past.

    Snoopy the Goon: Bloggers don’t have a lot of body language? Speak for yourself, m’dear! 😀

    Arik: I think I disagree (though of course, this is all subjective anyway). I’ve got friends all over the world who I keep in touch with online very frequently. For example, I’m in contact with nrg and Leonel to such a degree that I know more about what’s going on in their daily lives than I do in yours. I’ve had more meaningful online exchanges with them and with our mutual friend out in California than I have with most of my friends who live in Israel who I see more frequently. It’s also a lot easier for me to show vulnerability to friends in writing than it is in person, so the three people I’ve mentioned here (nrg, Leonel and “E”) know me better than people I see with more regularity. I couldn’t have gotten through certain periods and episodes of my life without them, even though they were far away and all exchanges were done online.

  15. I think that we both agree then 🙂

    That’s what I meant – that the level of friendship has nothing to do with real encounter. As you said, your online friends know much more about you and vice verse. But this only shows that you can have a full image of their life in your mind through the written word. You are able to communicate deep structures of emotions and feeling to them yet, understanding each other fully to a much higher level than with “other friends”. It only emphasizes what I claim – it is all in our minds 😉

  16. Ok Arik. I guess I didn’t quite understand what you wrote the first time. Sorry about that. 😦 When someone says that something is “in our minds”, for some reason I automatically see that as being something with a negative connotation, as though the person is inferring that something isn’t actually real. Obviously, there will always be online connections that will not go very deep, but then there are others where you connect with the person on so many different levels that the fact that you haven’t actually met them (yet) is almost irrelevant. It can definitely be frustrating though, when you want to do “real life” things with these people you’ve grown close to, but can’t (for example, I’d give anything to be able grab coffee or sushi with nrg more than once or twice every three years or so…). That’s the downside.

  17. I do think the connections are genuine, and they are a new type of friendship, but one that has become tremendously valuable to me.

    The bloggers I connect with know parts of me that people in my day to day life rarely see, or sometimes see less clearly. In person I am a boisterous woman with long red hair and my physical presence is a part of how I am processed. In person I have difficulty slowing down and am resistant to sharing anything of substance with people because of the vulnerability it leaves me feeling.

    In my blog, I have to slow down and take the time to think something out and it’s all my thoughts, none of my physical presence or protective shell. A part of me that is equally valid and important and real – but less frequently shared in day to day life.

    It has lead me to valuable connections with people who, although we sometimes go long periods in between contact, have come to mean a great deal to me.

  18. Meeting my favourite bloggers has been fun and very exciting. I loved them just as much in person as I did online.

  19. I dunno Liza. I think as they are often closer to acquaintances instead of friends. In the case of FaceBook, it’s like being introduced to someone at a party. They may keep showing up at parties, and you may chat with them, but they are more like friends of friends. If I do exchange messages and we start to form a bond, they feel like friends I haven’t met yet. Liza, we met through email from this blog, and I was lucky enough to meet you in person on a business trip to Israel. Sadly, I’m no longer with the company that sponsored my trips, so I hope we can stay in touch through various virtual means.

    Always love to read your blog,


  20. I wonder… what about friends you met in the real world and now you only meet in cyberspace ?

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