Are Online And Real Life Friendships The Same? How The Internet Makes A Difference
The internet has been a part of mainstream culture for well over two decades now, and yet there is still a stigma towards online friends. With today’s technology, you can video chat with your friend with ease, talk to them from wherever you are, and have a digital bond that lasts. However, if your friend lives somewhere that you can’t travel to, you may wonder if that friend is as legitimate as a friend who lives nearby. The answer is yes. In this article, we’ll explain why.
Pros Of Having An Online Friend
Nowhere in the definition of the word “friend” does it indicate you must communicate in person. Online friendships are a wonderful part of many people’s lives. You can bond with someone from behind another screen, and sometimes the bond goes deeper than it does for your in-person friends – for several reasons.
Forums make it easier to meet friends who share a common interest. Be it a political group, a blog dedicated to a certain fandom, a specific hobby, or many other commonalities, having a mutual interest is a great icebreaker. While you don't have to have everything in common with a friend, having shared interests is one way to spark a conversation.
Easier To Break The Ice
Perhaps the best thing about online communication is how easy it is to strike up a conversation. If you're introverted, shy, or just don't like talking to strangers, it's often hard to make that first move. On the internet, however, it's easier for most to make that first comment or send that first message. You can take time to write out exactly what you want to say.
You Can Get To Know Them Faster
Most people online are more comfortable with talking about themselves. They'll talk about their flaws, their mental illnesses, what they fear, and so on. In real life, it's hard to talk about some things without feeling like you're going to be laughed at. Due to ease of online communication, you can often learn more about someone much faster than you can in real life.
You Can Make Friends Around The Globe
Making friends with someone from a different part of the world can be a fun experience. You can find out more about their culture, and they can learn from you. Best of all, if you do get a chance to visit where they live, you may have a place to stay and someone to show you around. They might even be able to chip in for a plane ticket. For the traveler, having friends across the globe can be a good thing.
There Are Multiple Ways To Communicate
Communication doesn't have to be text-based. You can have video chats through your computer or phone. You two can walk around the town, talking to each other. It isn't a perfect replication of actually being there together, but it can be unique and fun.
Cons Of Having An Online Friend
With that said, online friends have their disadvantages as well.
Hanging Out Is Hard
Even if your online friend lives just a few hours from you, you're probably not going to visit them that often. You two have separate lives and arranging a meeting can be difficult – and costly.
Some forms of digital communication – like texting – can be misconstrued because body language and tone of voice are absent. You can use emojis, but they're not always helpful. Taking offense to a benign message is common. It's can also be harder to get the hint that someone doesn't want to talk to you. Be patient and remember that miscommunications will happen.
Harder To Make Up
If you're going to be friends with someone for a long time, you're probably going to get into disagreements at some point. With in-person friendships, you may get mad at each other for a while but then make up – especially if the two of you have mutual friends. Sometimes, making up is the best option to keep the friend circle going.
With an online friend, however, it's easy for them to get mad, hit the block button, and then find another online friend, forgetting about you in the process. When you're blocked, it becomes difficult to try to reach them. It's also socially unacceptable to make another account and try talking to them.
When communicating with an online friend, keep your cool if there is an argument. Don't reach for the block button. Take some time alone and talk again with a cool head. If you do hit the block button, remember you can always unblock.
If you grew up online, you may have had an online friend who just disappeared. Maybe their account got hacked or the website you use to talk through is no more. Some people take breaks from social media, or tear down their accounts and rebuild them somewhere else. All it takes is a changed username to make reconnecting with an online friend difficult. It’s smart to get more contact info than just the social media site they're on.
They May Not Be What They Seem
If you're on a message board, exercise caution when making an online friendship, especially if you're younger. Obviously, you shouldn't accept an invitation to hang out with someone until you know for sure they're who they say they are.
Stay True To Yourself
When making friends online, you want to stay true to yourself and what you want out of a friendship. You can find friends who reflect your interests and passions. It’s important to connect with people who will respect you and reflect your morals and values. When you’re finding friends – whether online or in real life – it’s okay to be picky. These are people who are here to support you. For them to know you well, you need to be real.
New friendships are an exciting opportunity to show off your personality. When you make friends online, there are ways to show these individuals who you are through words, phone, or video chat. You don’t have to pretend you like something just to fit in. The whole point of making friends online is to find people whom you relate to that can enrich your life.
The point of seeking people to chat with on the internet is to feel less alone. When you find friends online, you can tell them about what matters to you. Find friends online that care about your hobbies and can relate to you. Join some social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to widen your options for connecting with others. There are also groups you can join where people have similar interests to you. Think about what’s important to you, and look at ways to connect with others. There’s a platform to make friends for everyone!
Be Safe Online
It’s exciting to have online friends, but don’t get carried away, it’s important to be safe. Be careful not to reveal information about yourself too soon. When meeting new friends online, find ones who are slow to open up and don’t just blurt out all their personal details. Be safe, and take your time revealing who you are. You don’t want to tell anyone where you live or work until you get to know them well. You don’t want people showing up at your door because you told them your address.
If you meet new friends, focus on your personality. See what your friends start revealing to you and build off these facts. In a way, it’s like “friend dating.” You’re testing out who you want to get close to, and which relationships to foster or let go. You’re going online to find people who you can talk to, and be emotionally vulnerable with, but that feeling comes with time. Like any friendship, trust takes time. You want to find new friends online who seem trustworthy. Let them earn that trust.
What To Look For In An Online Friendship
Friendships take time to develop. You want to look for somebody who genuinely is interested in you, and you are curious about them. Someone who is genuinely interested in being your friend will ask you questions about your interests and your life.
When making friends with people you can't see in person, pay attention to the words they use; they matter. You want to read what they're telling you and take those statements at face value. The stories and reflections they impart about their real-life friendships will show you what sort of person they are. If they're loyal, it will come across.
Another thing you can do is talk about yourself and see how they respond. Do they want to know more? Pay attention to the way a friend you're interested in talks to you. By being observant when you're meeting friends, you can learn a lot about them.
Once you get to know each other and you're regularly conversing, how do you know if your online friend cares about you? You can gauge that by how often you speak to each other, what you talk about, and if they're there for you during rough times. When you find new friends online, it's crucial to have high standards for them. You deserve to be treated with respect and cared for in friendships.
If you open up to your buddies on the internet during hard times and they're responsive, that's a good sign. That means they care for you. If you feel positive in the friendship, go with that instinct. If something is off, follow your gut there too. When you meet new friends online, they should align with what you want in life and care about you as a human being.
While it is often easier to connect with people online compare to in person, it can still be unnerving. While many people online are nice, depending on the forum, there are also “keyboard cowboys” and cyberbullies whose main goal online is to argue and belittle other people. Other people have social anxiety disorder, which makes it extra difficult to strike up a conversation with someone new, sometimes even online.
A professional relationship counselor through ReGain can help you navigate your friendships. They can also help with issues like social anxiety disorder or cyber bullying
If you have a hard time connecting with others, one of the most important steps that you can take is to reach out to a counselor. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a popular method of psychotherapy that has been found to help individuals with social anxiety, depression, and many other mental health concerns. CBT helps you learn new ways of behaving, thinking, and responding to social situations, as well as helping to build self-confidence.
Studies have found that Internet-based CBT (iCBT) is usually just as effective as in-person therapy, which can make it easier for individuals who have social anxiety, as well as for those wanting to practice their online communication skills. Online counseling with ReGain lets you find a professional relationship therapist without having to leave the comfort of your home, and they can work around your schedule, not vice versa.
When you're talking to friends in a new setting, such as a social media platform or chatroom, you may not know what to expect. That's natural, but try to relax and be yourself. If you need help maneuvering through online friendships or working through mental health concerns like social anxiety, an online Regain counselor can help. Reach out today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Online Friends
Do online friends count as real friends?
If you're reading this, it's likely that you talk to people online or have talked to someone online at least once. When you meet people on the internet, you might be seeking a sense of support or connection. Maybe, you're about to move to a new area, and you're looking for friends online that are in the location you're moving to. Perhaps, you play games online and have met friends through gaming. If you're wondering, "are online friends real?" the answer is yes. Online friends absolutely count as real friends. It doesn't matter where you met; it's the social emotional connection that counts. You may start out with digital communication and move onto hanging out in person, or you may take a while to meet due to distance. Either way, online friendships can be special and unique connections. How to make friends is different for everybody. For some, it comes naturally wherein for others, it's a conscious effort, and both are completely valid.
Why are real friends better than online friends?
Again, it's not where you met that makes friends real. Many people meet their online friends face to face and establish connections with them offline. Whether you met someone in high school, at a social event, or online, you can have long-term associations with them that amplify your mental health and quality of life overall. Nothing beats having a true friend that you know will be there for you and that you can trust. Of course, before you consider online friends real friends, you have to make sure that they are who they say they are and establish trust. Online friendships are becoming more and more common, and people meet people online in person every day. Online friendships were once kept on the down-low or shunned and were regarded as separate from in-person friendships, but times are changing, and most people have at least one friend that they met digitally before engaging with one another face to face. There is something special about talking to people face to face and hanging out in person. In fact, it's irreplaceable, and it's important for your mental health to have social support that exists offline. That said, it's necessary to remember that for some, online connections become those face-to-face connections. Don't discount someone's friendship if they meet a person online because that person could mean a lot to them.
Is having online friends bad?
Having online friends isn't bad as long as you go about it safely. If you're wondering what makes online friends real, it is partially the social emotional connection you have and partially verifying that they are who they say they are. Before you make online friends real friends, make sure to video chat and talk on the phone. Be sure to always bring someone with you when you meet people that you've only had digital communication with so far in person.
Are online friends healthy?
Having online friends is certainly healthy as long as the internet does not become your whole life. Online friendships can be unique in the sense that you are likely to bond over things that you have in common rather than your geographical location. Of course, having friends in real life is extremely important, but sometimes the people that you meet in person initially won't always the same interest. For example, if you are interested in mental health, you might meet people through mental health groups online. If you're interested in travel, astrology, or another niche, you might also meet people online who are into those things. It is essential to have social support from people who truly understand you, and of course, you can always meet your online friends in real life eventually. Some are more extroverted than others, but even introverts need friends and experience health advantages from social connections.
Why is making friends online bad?
Making friends online is not bad, but it is essential to be safe about it. Often, when people criticize online friendships, the main part of the problem they see is the potential safety issues affiliated with meeting someone online. This is a valid concern, but there are measures to take. Be sure to talk to people you meet online through video chat before you meet up. Meet in a public place and bring someone with you. Online friendships aren't just made by adults, so it is important to be aware of the potential that your teenager might make friends online whether you know about it or not.
Many teens report having one or more online friendships or friends that they initially met online. If you are the parent of a teen that makes friends online, it is understandable and unavoidable that you will be concerned. Your concern is valid. When a teenager wants to find a way to meet an online friend in person, it's hard to stop them. One of the things you can do is support them and accompany them when they meet an online friend for the first time. That way, you can avoid the possibility that they might sneak out or do something equally as unsafe so that they can meet a person from the internet. You can join up at the mall or in a café. Public places are always your best bet, and you don't have to make things awkward. Just be there for the first meeting, and if possible, get to know the person's parents. Likely, the parents of your teenager's friend will want to attend their first in-person meeting as well, so you can talk to them before meeting up, and they can accompany you, your teen, and your teen's friend when they meet in person.
How long do online friendships last?
When you meet a friend online, it may be the start of a friendship that lasts for the rest of your life. As with any friendship, there is the potential to stray apart, but there is also the possibility of a lifelong connection. When you make online friends real life friends by meeting in person, this can become especially true. Remember that there are real people behind the screen, and that's part of what makes online friends real. This is part of why it is so important to be kind to the people you meet online. You never know who is going through tough times, and the words you say to people both in real life and online matter. Cyberbullying is an extremely serious issue to be wary of when you talk to people online or if you know that your kids are talking to people online. Being on high alert when it comes to this kind of thing is crucial, but it doesn't make all online friendships unhealthy, nor does it make them invalid.
Think about online dating. Some people start dating individuals that they met over the internet and end up getting married. Couples that meet online can get married and stay together for the rest of their lives in some cases. Relationships can go bad whether they begin online or in person, but they can also be exceptional. The same is true for online friendships.
Can you trust online friends?
It's important not to trust people online too quickly. You can trust online friends once you meet them in person and confirm that they are who they say they are. Again, it's essential to take someone with you and stay safe when you meet an online friend in person. Video chat can be a place to start when it comes to making virtual connections real. Using video chat, you can see people's facial expressions and hear their voice, making everything feel more authentic. It can take time to develop trust in any friendship, but that's especially true for online friendships due to the possibility that you may come across someone who isn't who they say they are in any capacity from time to time. Trust will build over the course of months or years when you have phone calls, move onto video chat, and meet up in person. Once you've met someone in person in a safe manner, your bond can become even stronger. Meeting online friends in person for the first time is a joyful moment for a ton of people, and as long as you take every safety precaution possible, making virtual connections can be the start of a long, healthy friendship.
Who are real friends?
Notice how easy for you to say "I love my family. I love my friends." Real friends are like your family that you can count on. They make you feel good. Social connections are positive for your mental health, and being around someone that is a real friend will generally be uplifting. A true friend should give you a sense of support. When we talk about a support system, we often think of friends, family, and possibly, a mental health professional or multiple mental health providers. A real friend is therefore you through tough times and pleasant times alike and enhances your life.
What do online friends do?
Online friends talk via web chat, phone calls, video chat, and more. Sometimes, online friends will play games together remotely. They may chat or meet on web forums. When you meet a friend online, the eventual goal is often to establish a connection in person. You may text each other throughout the day or talk on social media, and if you live near the same area, you might meet up.
What is the difference between a real friendship and online friendship?
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