Thought: On the possiblity of treating online friends like offline friends

A friend from Southern California e-mailed me today asking if I wanted to go see a movie with them tonight. I replied back reminding them that unfortunately I could not do that as I was more than 400 miles away in Northern California. We kept e-mailing each other for a while, which made me real something. We were acting like online friends, not being able to interact face to face with each other. We were making up for such an absence of having physical access to each other by sending each other e-mails. Somehow, it seemed that online friends could in fact be treated like offline friends on many levels, since treating offline friends like online friends did not seem to be creating any issues.

Is it ok to view online friends like offline friends?

When you move from one city to another, treating people you know in real life as your offline buddies may be a good thing, as that allows you to still maintain friendship through online communication. I wonder what different people think the differences between online and offline friends are other than the offline friends being physically present around us. When can we start treating an online friend as a regular friend? Can an online friend even be considered a true friend, the same way we consider some offline friends as our true buddies?

I try to view friends as friends, regardless of them being offline or online

I interact with a couple of online friends on a daily basis via instant and text messages. I have had some good online experiences with people, and I have also had some shocking online experiences with people. Most of my online friends have never seen me. Yet, we still act like offline friends who now live in different places. Our interactions, conversations, feelings and levels of trust regarding different issues does not seem to be hindered by the fact that in reality we are probably just different variations of pixels and bytes floating around in the endless world of the internet.

Giving online people more chances to be friends can be good

I notice people experimenting with other people online on a daily basis. They share personal feelings about different things in order to see the reaction of the other person before deciding whether or not to share even more. Even though it is easy to fake emotions online, like typing out “Oh I am so sorry that your neighbor died!” while watching and enjoying a funny movie at the same time, people still take risks and try to hope for the best. I think making an effort and hoping for some result because of that effort is a good thing. People are not born friends. They become friends through friendships. This same rule applies to the online world: online friends can also prove their friendship the same way offline friends do, and people can also allow others to prove their friendship online.

What do you think? What is your opinion of online friends and their comparison to offline friends?