People say “internet friends” as though they are not “real” friends, just “virtual” friends. Webster’s dictionary defines virtual as “being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or admitted.” In other words, a virtual friend is kind of like a real friend, but not really.
I think most people would argue this is not true. Online friends are not only real friends, but many times they are truer friends than people we know in real life. The people who do not understand this are those who just the computer for work and don’t take time to make social connections. My husband is one of those people. He is too busy to make friends online. Often, when I spoke of my online friends, I would see this puzzled expression on his face. It was hard for him to grasp my involvement with strangers and how I would speak of them as if I knew them all my life. You have to admit, it does sound a little bizarre. However, over the years, he has come to understand this foreign concept of “virtual” friends and the importance of them in my life and he accepts it.
I have had many online friends over the years. Most of the relationships began with a shared interest in a television show, believe it or not. I have gone to forums where they discuss American Idol, Hell’s Kitchen, Dr. Phil Housewives, The Dr. Phil Family, Mob Wives and most recently The Talk/Leah and Holly LIVE. Many times, chatting about the shows yields friend requests on Facebook and eventually we start to share our personal lives and get to know one another. That’s how it happened for me. Those who were once virtual strangers have become “virtual” friends…or as I like to call them “friends.”
The friends I have met online are intelligent, caring, compassionate people. They have made me smile and laugh, they have given me advice, they have listened to me go on and on, they check on me when I’m sick, they wish me Happy Birthday, they wish my kids Happy Birthday. They are there on my worst days to help me through them, they are there on my best days to share my joy. I can confide in them and trust them. I miss them when they aren’t around. They have all enriched my life and have made me a better person for having met them. If that is not a real friend, then what is?
Where can you find a greater community of support and encouragement then online. You type something in your status on Facebook and before you know it several people took time to leave comments, offer support, write you notes, pray for you, even call. It’s amazing! I think virtual friends are going to help us all live longer. They diminish our stress and increase our happiness every day. How many “real life” friends do that? I have friends in real life, but they don’t take the time that “virtual” friends do to make sure I am ok. Sometimes I don’t speak to them for days or weeks, but my online friends are there 24/7.
Not all online friendships are good though. As in “real life” you will meet people that are or become toxic. Those people should be deleted. Life comes with enough stress as it is and we don’t need to add to it. Eliminate the negative people and focus on those where there is mutual caring and concern. There were days, in the past, where some people got me so upset that they literally made me physically sick. Not any more. I don’t want to waste my time on people like that when I have so many other wonderful people I care about and can devote my time to.
Maybe in the end, what we refer to as “virtual” friends are “real” friends and real friends are virtual friends?