I will begin with one simple question – How does someone define the term friendship?
If you ask different types of people you will get different opinions. The term friendship is a close mutual relationship between two or more people marked by feelings of care, respect, concern, or even love.
For those who experienced it, it’s a complex process and has a huge impact on our mental health and happiness. In every stage of our lives such as childhood, adolescents, and adulthood we strive for that interactive bond making us secure and wanted.
Nowadays there are different forms of friendship including the most popular – social media friends. Real-life friends are the opposite of social media friends yet they have some things in common.
Social media friendships, for example, are built online and rely on communication tools such as social network sites, stable internet connections, and smart technology. The nature of these relationships is virtual and lacks the intimate, personal, and emotional connection of real-life friendship made offline.
However, some would argue that hanging out with an online friend can be just as meaningful, supportive, and enjoyable as meeting a friend in person.
Furthermore, many would agree that making friends online is much easier than in the real world. There are so many reasons why making social connections and internet friends seems so much easier when we all use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. to communicate.
The most common types of people that find it easier to develop a friendship online are teens and students in primary schools. According to a lot of studies, teenagers claim that after meeting someone once in real life afterward they proceed with communication online before meeting again. With this strategy, they avoid things from getting awkward and intense and speed up the normal process with a superficial bond at first.
However, an important question needs to be asked here.
How do you recognize a true friendship?
Is it the amount of time we spend with some people on the phone or hanging out? We all have that buddy list but how to know which of them are the real ones? To make everything come to its senses, there is an excellent explanation about the differences between these two terms – social media friends or real-life friends.
Social Media friends
Social media friends are the type of people who don’t really know you as a person but you met them once on the social media platforms or maybe you added them on your Facebook account because they are friends with someone you know.
One good example here is the lurker friends that don’t interact with your social media posts.
An online friend is someone who is available most of the time because of the advantage of social media platforms and their constant use of them at any time or anywhere. Example of online friends is Facebook friends, Snapchat friends, or TikTok friends.
Finding friends online is much easier than finding friends offline. Online friends are easy to make because you can just go to some website and there always be someone you can chat with.
For some people is likely possible to have an online “best” friend who they never met before in reality but who is always there keeping you company in your boring moments. You can talk to that kind of friend most of the time and share inside jokes such as memes that you can find on the internet.
When these types of friendships are made people only receive a fragment of a person, an online version of someone that only reciprocates a conversation in a given moment. Real-life friendships, on the other hand, allow you to experience a person fully and determine whether or not they are worth your time.
Real-life friends are the type of people you hang out with in real life. They keep you company whenever they can if they are not busy doing something else. Nowadays we live a fast life and not everyone has the time to do a lot of things in a day including seeing many people.
In offline friendships, you are face to face with a person and you can talk about different subjects such as the most important thing called private life and the difficulties one person have in some period of their time. You can also make plans like going to your favorite restaurant or on a picnic.
The difference between social media friends and real-life ones is that online friends know all about your relationship drama because you ask for advice just about that kind of superficial stuff. Friends online are not here to support you and walk with you through the ups and downs of life.
On the other hand, the real-life friend knows you best and it’s in the right position to tell you the truth even if it’s hurtful sometimes.
The main reason why we chose social media friends over real-life friends
Do social media friends qualify as real friendships? So far we came to a similar interpretation that online friends are easier to make.
In the digital world, there is a variety of digital platforms where a person can interact with another. The opposite of that is real friends aren’t easy to make especially in this modern world. We come to a point where we as people are afraid of being judged by other people.
Online friends are the perfect ‘friends’ for kids who live in isolated areas, kids with disabilities, or social anxiety. That online environment provides interaction with minimal risk. That’s why we choose to be protected by our computer screens and not go face-to-face.
Another reason we prefer online friendships is that they require significantly less effort, responsibility, and work to be nurtured.
Contrary to the commitment and responsibility required by our closest friends, online friendships are not as demanding and any small inconvenience can be solved under the excuse that the internet connection was interrupted.
The internet provides the opportunity to create a friendship in the blink of an eye but at the same time, there is the security of the block button if things are going in the wrong direction.
Social networks serve as a buffer against inappropriate situations and conflicts that appear between people who interact online. All this seems so convenient but also it takes away the people skills that they need in real life.
Face-to-face interactions and resolving conflicts in person are more respectful, plus watching someone’s body language and facial expressions will help you avoid misinterpretations that could lead to bigger conflicts.
The danger of social media friends
Of every good story, there is a bad side and social connections made online can be a bit dangerous. Making social media friends has its own disadvantages.
When a person is talking with someone online, they get more comfortable, and with that loosens you can accidentally reveal information about some personal things that might put you in a dangerous position. In other words, online connections can make you feel vulnerable and possibly say and do things that you wouldn’t normally do.
In virtual friends, there is someone with the intention of hacking us or stalking us to gain something out. The second dangerous thing is more physical.
If internet communication is getting very frequent we become socially isolated and mentally unavailable not only for making real-life friends but also can affect our daily lifestyle outside the screens. This is one of the many toxic effects of social media.
People with whom you have built meaningful friendships would never put you in dangerous situations.
Having these examples we can make a conclusion that in some certain way having online friends is dangerous and we need to be careful but on the other hand, we have the power to decide with who we will interact online.
The Pros and Cons of having an online friend
|Does not require time and effort.||Lack of intimate connection.|
|Online friends can be found on social media networks, forums, or games.||Online friends do not know your true and authentic personality.|
|Less pressure and anxiety of talking to someone in person.||There is always a danger that someone you don’t know personally may take advantage of you.|
|Online friends can keep you company almost every time.||Online friendships can’t provide you with the needed support and boost your confidence.|
Friendship on your terms (The benefits of real friendship)
Face-to-face connections are still very important. Nothing beats having a real friend and knowing that someone is always there for you no matter what. The feeling that you can trust someone is irreplaceable and we all need that social support. There are numerous reasons why real friendships are still important, but we will only mention a few of them just as a reminder:
- Real-life friendships create much profound bonds between two or more people
- Friends function as a support system building intimacy and trust
- It’s better to have a few real friends than hundreds of social media friends who might not be there for you and could disappear
- Friends keep us active and are able to advise us
- A real friendship needs to maintain making us feel involved and part of something bigger
- Time with friends influences our confidence and increases happiness
Some people don’t know the value of a real friend. Maybe they don’t want to have one or just can’t make one. Either way you need to try even if sometimes the whole process seems difficult because, in the end, you will come to a realization that it was worth it.
Conclusion – Are online friends real friends?
Despite the negative side of having social media friends, we need to accept the fact that they have their place in some people’s lives in this modern era. But still, that kind of friendship doesn’t provide people with the social, emotional or physical learning and development they need.
Nowadays parents need to be encouraging their kids from a younger age to be developing and foster friendships in the real world for a better and healthier lifestyle. Many people would say that online friendships are transient and not as deep as real ones, other people would say the reverse, that sometimes you can be more open and honest when communicating with someone directly through social media.
We can make the conclusion that different people have different opinions and because of that there is no simple answer to the main question “Are social media friends as deep and meaningful as long-standing friendships in the real world?” Which, when you think about it, is just another form of communication and it’s your personal decision what is REAL for you.