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Virtual Friendships September 11, 2010

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Life Balance, People.

Tiggers-R-UsThe definition of friendship seems to be undergoing a rather dramatic transformation in the age of social networking, cyber-space, and virtual reality.

Growing up, we exchanged  confidences with friends, trusting them to guard our secrets.  Our best friends knew as much about us as we knew about ourselves.

The rest of our classmates were just that ~ classmates.   Not friends, classmates.

When we started working, we befriended a few co-workers, promoting them from the rank of casual acquaintance or co-worker to friend.  These friends received the promotion the old fashioned way ~ they earned it through mutual trust and admiration.

Other co-workers remained just that ~ co-workers.  Not friends, co-workers.

Boy, how times have changed.  These days, people refer to people they’ve barely met, or perhaps never met (except in cyberspace) as friends.  Due to the prevalence of avatar images, one virtual friend may not even know  what another virtual friend looks like.

Social Networking Sites have leveled the playing field.  Facebook, for example, doesn’t provide separate hierarchies or categories for Best Friends, Close Friends, Classmates, Fellow Alumni, Co-Workers, Casual Acquaintances,  Strangers with Shared Interests, etc.  You’re either friends, or nothing.

And nobody wants to be nothing!

People add friends on FB with little or no  exchange of information ~ we  friend (and sometimes unfriend) virtual strangers with little more than the click of a button.

It’s a good thing that FB doesn’t require us to buy birthday gifts for all the virtual friends we’ve accumulated.  We would have to get a second job to pay for them . . . leaving us less time to hang about on FB accumulating new virtual friends

And it’s not just in cyber-space that the term friend is loosely tossed about and applied to virtual strangers.  When Rachel Ray travels, for example, she makes friends every place she visits:

* “Hey, I had a delicious lunch, and I made some new friends.”

* “I had a blast at the wine tasting, and I made some new friends.”

* I’ve had a great time in Cape Cod, and I made some new friends.”

Not my kind of friends she didn’t:  A waitress, bus driver, or store owner who gives me a good tip on sites to see when I’m traveling is a kind stranger, or a passing acquaintance, not a new friend.

These days, virtual friendships on social networking sites like Facebook require little more than a shared interest in reading, writing, politics, music, reality TV, sewing, cooking, philosophy, virtual farming, or Chia pets.

In contrast, friendships in “real life” require much more than a passing acquaintance or shared interest in an esoteric subject matter.  Friendship, in my book, requires mutual confidence, affection, trust, admiration, support, acceptance, intimacy, respect, encouragement, continuity, and other reciprocities like those I share with my BFF . . . Best Friend Forever.

But more about my BFF later . . .

Can a virtual friendship blossom into something more?

Absolutely, but it requires more than a casual click of the Friend button on Facebook . . .

I want to virtually hear them laugh out loud.

Related post:  Reach Out & Touch Someone

Related article:  Friending and Unfriending ~ A New Social Order?


1. cindy - September 11, 2010
nrhatch - September 11, 2010

Thanks, Cindy!
I love JT . . . even if I didn’t understand a word from the intro.

BTW: I virtually hear you laugh out loud several times a day. ; D
I hope one day we meet in person!

cindy - September 11, 2010

Wouldn’t that just be the best thing ever?

nrhatch - September 11, 2010


2. souldipper - September 11, 2010

Yeay Nancy! Poignant, appropriate, pertinent, relevant and bang bloody on! A question has been raised by one of the Universities in your country about how ‘intimacy’ will look in a few years. All this connectedness and so little intimacy. Incidentally, that same university has discontinued using emails with students. That is now passe.

nrhatch - September 11, 2010

Perhaps one day humans will reproduce solely by cloning the strongest strands of DNA.

The need for “intimacy” will vanish.

We’ll all just live in cyber cubicles, interacting on line while robots take care of the cooking and cleaning. : )

3. Agatha82 - September 11, 2010

Totally agree Nancy. Those “friends” you gather in FB and other social sites are not truly your friends unless you really get to know them. Sure, it’s possible to make REAL friends out of those virtual friends. Has happened to me many times but I don’t like how the word friend has lost its true meaning nowadays.

nrhatch - September 11, 2010

Some “virtual friendships” transform over time into “true friendships” (albeit long distance ones) through the exchange of confidences, etc.

But virtual hugs just aren’t quite the same . . .

4. booksphotographsandartwork - September 11, 2010

great points.

nrhatch - September 12, 2010

Technology has brought us closer together, and pushed us farther and farther apart.

5. Naomi - September 12, 2010

Such a far-reaching subject, thanks for covering it so well, Nancy. Most thought-provoking. Love that video too, Cindy 🙂

nrhatch - September 12, 2010

Thanks, Naomi.

It’s an interesting topic for me. I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface.

6. Paula - September 13, 2010

Ah, yes! Sounds familiar! For the rest of you folks out there, Nancy and I had a discussion in re this very subject back in March: Here’s my post:


Sounds a bit like maybe you are seeing this more my way now? (LOL)

nrhatch - September 13, 2010

I thought you might enjoy this. 8)

And thanks for including the link to your post. I’d forgotten about it ~ I just recalled discussing the concept with you in a series of e-mails.

Now, after re-reading my June 29th comment to your post, I find that I still agree with what I wrote:

I don’t have a problem with Oprah’s use of it, or the use of it on FB and other social network sites.

It’s just a label ~ convenient to describe any of the above relationships in a shorthand sort of way.

If a relationship needs greater definition, then it can be spelled out more fully by another designation . . .

Like BFF –> Best Friend Forever. : )

Rachel, Oprah, and Facebook can use the word “friend” however they wish, leaving me free to differentiate between (faceless) Facebook Friends, Virtual Friends, and . . . my Best and Closest Friends.

As long as I understand and appreciate the difference in my mind, other people can use the term “friend” however they see fit.

7. Paula - September 14, 2010

And of course, I will always at least attempt to keep “friend” as a special honorific in my vocabulary. It’s helpful (to me anyway) when we are on the same page, but that’s not always possible, I realize! Language – what a mysterious, wonderful, frustrating and delightfully confusing concept!

nrhatch - September 14, 2010

I hear ya! My preference would be greater deliniation between “friend” and “acquaintance” but others are eliminating that distinction faster than I can swim against the tide.

So I’ll have virtual friends and TRUE friends and my BFF.

8. clarbojahn - February 7, 2011

Thank you for this post, nrhatch. It clearly adds to mine and ‘virtually’ discusses what I left unsaid. I love all the comments, too.

nrhatch - February 7, 2011

As Naomi said back when I posted this, it’s a huge topic, impossible to cover in a single blog post.

We must nibble away at the edges until we see where “our truth” lies.

Thanks, Clar

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