“How can someone you’ve never met possibly be considered a friend?” This challenge was posed to an old friend of mine, one who has “been there” for me in person in years past and now stays in touch via the internet. But can it actually work the other way round? Can we make “real friends” through technology, meeting them in person only later, if at all? Are the friends we make through non-traditional means actually “real friends”?

Modern technology has changed almost every aspect of life, and so it’s no small thing to consider: What exactly is a friend? What types of friends do I want? Who are my real friends? The answers deserve careful thought and reflection. No two people are going to come up with exactly the same definitions, filters and requirements. Whether we consciously know it or not, we all have a set of rules and definitions for friendship.

These rules are so much a part of us that we may get knocked for a loop when our “friends” do things that violate our rules—which may or may not be *their* rules. So how do you sort out it all out? In building a positive life, friendship can be one of the best parts of our world. It’s worth taking the time to understand our own minds and hearts. The best place to start is by taking the time to get to know what the terms “friend” and “friendship” mean to each of us.

Self-Understanding

While there are no right or wrong answer to these questions, knowing your answers will help you build the friendships and the kind of life you want:

  • What makes a good and true friend?
  • How should they treat me?
  • How should I treat them?
  • What do they need to do or be before I trust them with my time, my possessions, and my private business?
  • Are they a friend if we don’t meet or spend time in the old-fashioned way?

Many friendships grow over time in terms of trust and intimacy. You can wind up being friends with someone that may not register when you first meet them. Friendship can sneak up on you, surprise you after years of acquaintance, and become much more than you ever expected.  Others are almost instantaneous bond. There’s no set pattern, but if take the time to learn what you need to get and give in friendships, your chances of cultivating positive and lasting ones are all the stronger.

Communication

There are many different types of friends that we might have in the course of a lifetime. Each holds the potential to enhance our lives and allow us to enhance theirs. Above all else, friends of every sort and level are cultivated with communication of some kind.

Within our world of technological marvels, there are more and better tools for meeting people, sharing interests, and making friends of all sorts than ever before. Whatever shape our friendships take, they’re brought to life and sustained with communication.

It may take only a few words, a good deed, or single shared grimace to bring a friendship into being that will last a lifetime. Or it may be the work of many years and conversations, and countless hours over equally countless cups of coffee. The method is much less important than the quality of that communication. There are as many ways to make friends and keep them as there are people in this world. Your mileage will vary.

We do take a risk when we trust, whether it’s in person or via technology. There are always going to be those who would take advantage of our generosity and capacity for friendship. Still, it’s a risk that I consider well worth the gamble. There are basic precautions to be taken with any new relationship—or even existing ones. A good dose of sensibility goes a long way, but that being said—there’s a whole world of people to discover.  And you never can tell where the friends you just haven’t met yet are going to be found.

Are Internet Friends ‘Real’ Friends?

So to answer the challenge posed earlier: I would have to say—- speaking for me and my definitions—absolutely! Someone that I have never once looked upon with my own eyes can be a good and true friend. I can and do have wonderful friends that I’ve never met in person and might never in this life. The joy that they bring is just as special as the joy that I get from the friends that live across town.

Can it be rightly said “That it’s not the same thing?” Of course it can—but then I don’t expect every friendship to be a carbon copy of every other. Everybody who has earned the title of “friend” in my life had earned it for unique reasons, under unique circumstances, each as individual as the person involved. Every relationship that deserves the crowning title of “friendship” is going to have its own particulars. So if the method of meeting and communication isn’t one my grandmother had at her disposal, then it’s just one more really cool thing about living when we do.

So, sit down by the fire some night, brew a hot cup of tea, and treat yourself to the positive experience of defining your own terms and kicking around a few questions on the nature of friendship for yourself. And who knows, maybe a friend will want in on the conversation — and whether they join you in person, by phone or other techno-marvel, revel in their  company.

What makes a good and true friend? Are the friends you make through non-traditional means actually “real friends”? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Photo by exrorro