I find it interesting that some (most) of my friends and even a few members of my family do not consider online friendships legitimate ones. There is a distinction between my friends in town and those that might be in Florida, South Dakota or New Zealand.
Some of them even have â€œpet termsâ€ for internet friends. To be fair, within the internet community, there is a nickname for â€œlocal friendsâ€ as well (irl â€“ in real life), the difference is that irl has never, in my experience, been a derogatory term.
Again, not everyone is outwardly negative about my friends from my various social networks, but almost everyone seems to think they are a second class citizen to some degree. Today, I want to state emphatically that they are not.
Some of my friends that I know from no other source than the internet are amongst the best people I know. Some of these people mirror my priorities and objectives in life to a ridiculous degree that I have seldom managed to accomplish with those I have been fortunate enough to happen upon in my lifeâ€™s wanderings.
And that, I believe is the key. In real life geography, education and employment often dictate who your friends are. At work or school, you have a limited sample to draw from, you make friends with those most similar to you, but you are making this choice from only a handful of options that are available to you. The rest of your irl friends are even more happenstance, running into them in a bar, a library, a grocery store, etc.
By contrast, when I join a social network, I am exposed to literally tens or hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom are wearing their personalities, values, and ambitions on their sleeves. I gravitate toward a person, not based on their physical proximity to me, but because of who they are. Iâ€™m also not hindered by such vanities as appearance, wealth or position, again, its what the person has to say that matters.
People often criticize bloggers and micro-bloggers for putting so much of their personal lives â€œout thereâ€ for the world to see. â€œWho wants to know all of that about a strangerâ€ is something I hear all the time. â€œYou doâ€ is my answer to them. The same stuff that people blog, twitter or IM about comes up in polite conversation at dinner parties, grocery store lines, and office break rooms every day. When you meet someone for the first time, if you are interested in them, you get to know them.
Some say that is pandering, which if it is true, Iâ€™m fine with, because honestly Iâ€™d rather be pandered to with values, dreams and even frustrations than makeup, clothes and cologne. Irl people (including myself) prepare themselves for first contact by being visually appealing, online people prepare for first contact by being themselves.
Growing up, I heard the phrase â€œyou canâ€™t judge a book by its coverâ€ often enough, and yet we put more stock in a medium of selecting our friends that encourages just that approach than one that does the opposite. Iâ€™m not saying irl friends are bad, or inferiorâ€¦ in fact, I love my local friends and have been very lucky to find some absolute peaches in this apple cart called Boise. However, I do not value them more because I met them in person.