How real is virtual?

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How real are virtual relationships?

The Internet has totally revolutionized the way we socialize. It has broken barriers of time, geographical boundaries and distances. It has shrunk the world, and you can reach anyplace in any remote corner of the world, including inside minds of people, with just a click, without even moving out of your bedroom.

There are reams and reams written about dangers of social networking, as well as advantages of them. All of us, who are regular internet users, have at least a few ‘online’ friends, whom we have never met. They fulfill all the requirements of a friend in ‘real life’. They listen to your problems, offer you help, are there when you need them and you can count on them for emotional and moral support.

Apart from the social networking sights, there is the enormous blogosphere, which serves as an ideal platform, to interact with many interesting people. It is amazing how quickly relationships move, on the internet, almost at the speed of light. You find yourself connecting so quickly through blogs and mails and offline messages left for you. I am amazed when many of you, write to me, as though you completely know me (which in fact you do, through my blog) and treat me like a long lost friend.(I feel happy and am honored too, to share a bit of your lives)

Personally, I have had a great experience. I had earlier written about how I met Ritu, so randomly, in real life and how she recognized me because of my blog .We have become such good friends now. (Click here in case you want to read the whole story)

With Niall too, but for my blog, I would never have made such a good friend. This was only because I was willing to let online become ‘real’.

For the last two days, a friend whom I had lost touch with and whom I reconnected through Orkut ,(It is amazing how many people it has helped to connect with) had not come online. I texted her asking if anything was wrong. She told me that her monitor was faulty and had gone for repair. She was happy to hear from me.

I was touched when Asha (a fellow blogger whom I have never met) sent me a message on my dad’s first death anniversary ,telling me that I was in her prayers.

To me, all my blog friends and all the people who leave comments, are as real as my ‘real life’ friends. I think about, Sue and Marja and Hershey and Gillian and many others whose blogs, I read and comment on regularly. They are not just people who live somewhere in cyberspace. To me, they are friends whom I have never met.

Therefore, I was really shocked when an online friend (whom I consider a good friend, but whom I have never met) said that most people are just killing time and that while he does care about his 'real life' friends,the people whom he has not met, are just faceless idiots, not worth bothering about. I was shocked at the insensitivity and the cruelty in that statement he made. It left me thinking. (Was I a fool to take an online friendship seriously?)

It led me thinking though—How ‘real’ are these friendships or relationships? Are you only as relevant as your last blog post? For instance, if you stopped coming online from this very moment, how many of your online friends, will really bother to call and ask you what has happened? Do people really care?

What do you say? Are virtual friendships providing us with a false sense of intimacy and support? What is ‘real’? What is your take on this?

I would love to hear what you have to say.


  1. I'm glad you decided to write about this because it's something I've been thinking about as well.

    To me virtual friends are as real as any others, but some are more real. And they are more real because we've talked more, we know each other better, perhaps we communicate more often. And I haven't met any of my blog friends personally. (but I've met other people when I was a teenager and we became great friends, so I have the experience of how great it can be).

    I'd be devastated if an online friend said that to me. :( But I've noticed that people have different degrees of 'seriousness' concerning their online friendships. or they have peculiar commenting habits. It's easy to offend and be offended in blogworld because people are sometimes so thoughtless at what they say. But then so are real life friendships, so...

    I don't know. This is a tricky subject.

  2. I will write on this soon. As a matter of fact, I am doing a project online social networking - Risks :) for my University course

  3. There is a big ‘baby’ in every one of us who craves for more attention, and tends to be impatient if we are not properly attended to. Lack of correspondence from a friend need not necessarily mean that he is no longer interested in maintaining the relationship. In these days of rush and hurry, time has become a major casualty in entertaining regular correspondence with your friends, online or real; and people tend to think no one cares for them when they see no messages, emails or scraps coming their way. Besides, at times people get too caught up with their own miseries that they may not consider keeping in touch as a top priority of the moment.

    To your query how real are ‘virtual’ friends, there are people who believe a ‘face’ is not important in fostering a relationship. These are people who are more interested in a person’s inner qualities than his appearance. Having said that, there are people who believe making ‘online friends’ is a waste of time. There ought to be a few rotten eggs in a large enough basket, but in the bigger picture they don’t matter.

    If people who take online friends seriously are to be considered as idiots, then not only would I be the king of idiots, but my throne would also be decorated with few of the rare diamonds in the world. I have more friends online who have made a positive impact on my life than in the real world.


  4. Sometimes one can have so many blogs to get through, one just 'skims'..then leave a fairly relevant polite comment and then on to the next.If one was to do this at a party, you'd be considered shallow and rude.e have to remember that there is a real person at the 'other end of the line'.Blogging has simply changed my life.(for the better!)

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  6. I am glad you wrote on this topic, I too have been sometimes asked questions as to why I take these relationships so seriously.
    I think it totally depends on the individual, may be some of us take relationships more seriously in real life than others, and so with the virtual relations too.
    There are some people whom you read, and you are sure they are kindred, you almost wait for their next post, and hold your breath to see what they have to say about that one really close to heart post you just wrote.

    P.S Would you mind if I link to this post?

  7. hey...tha's telepathy...just yesterday i was running this thought thru my head that i'm enjoying blogging so much and meeting so many new people...and a friend looked at me weirdly and said why are u wasting your time, can't u do something more real?

    i do have a job, family, friends etc...but blogging has given me a chance to rediscover my expression...

    as MB says, people like a face with their friendships, some like the informality of the virtual world..In the end you decide the depth of the friendship...teh same manner in you choose your 'other' friends...

    You've made close friends on teh net...i've joined a dance class with a friend i had been corresponding with on orkut...sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn't...doesn't that happen in teh real world too?

    ..and if u were to be missing for a few days, I sure will scrap u to find out if things r okay :))

  8. Interesting topic this is. I don't quite see any difference between real/virtual.

    I was of the same opinion as the one you mentioned towards the end until I got to see that it's not that true.

    As for the question, do people really bother to call and check up.. depends on how much effort you take to get to know the other person.

  9. That person's comment shocks me too. I think he must be a very supervicial person if he thinks like that. Thanks for counting me in because I think the same about you. I have a group of friends I am atracted too and to whom I am true. Others only pass or don't work out. Just like in real life.
    I find that in blogs people often reveal a lot more than in real life, what makes connection even better. So I would say just move on
    I'll keep sticking around

  10. This topic always seems to be revolving around in my brains....i've made lots of friends through this world....and I must say its been so enriching so far, though there have been a few hiccups..
    It must be the one factor I suppose when you seem to just click with a person, and u know it'll just turn out right...and most times it does.
    I just take it as a chance meeting in a mall or resort or whatever, and u make friends...y not here??

  11. What is virtual about the relationship when a friendship can transcend barriers? Didn't we have pen pals before internet came along?

    I think that the barrier from virtual to real is crossed the minute you connect to eachother as humans. Its not a monitor or a system you have befriended.Its a 'person'...and as long as the person is 'real' such friendships and interactions are very much REAL.

    Chances that ur online friend does not value friendships in his real life too. Perhaps he is the 'faceless idiot' who needs a lesson in human interactions!

  12. PS Im glad u hv a close bunch of lovely online friends. Thats a blessing in life. FRIENDSHIP is a blessing be it online or not.

    **..said that most people are just killing time and that while he does care about his 'real life' friends,the people whom he has not met, are just faceless idiots, not worth bothering about.

    wonder what made him say that. perhaps an online friend of his cheated on him or hurt him? whatever it is, he has no right to say THAT abt every online user. does he know ALL the online users? I think not. So he shouldnt generalise that to ALL ppl online.

    Anyways here's my take on this subject. I hv always said this and I will always believe this:

    Online or not, ppl will always be who they are. Just like how ppl can be fake online, ppl can be fake in offline too. So, the truth is, if ur a caring person in real, so will u be online too. And if ur a insensitive cheat, so will u be online too.


  13. DM:You said it so well--In real life too, there are people who are close and others who are not so close.

    Revathi:Will look forward to what you say.

    M.B.Das: i agree about all of us wanting validation from external sources--Isnt that only human.And I tend to agree with you that people are busy--but hey--if you cared enough I think you'd call!!(same rule applies to all friends)
    And I too feel that if an activity 9be it online or offline)enriches you in some way, it just cannot be a waste of time.

    Niall:I always read, think and then comment--thats why you havent seen my comments on your recent posts--because I wanted to ponder!

  14. Thinking aloud: I think any activity that enriches your life and makes you grow as a person cannot be a waste of time.And I shall wait for your phone call!;-) LOL

    J:You made a very valid point there--about it depends on how much effort YOU have made.That is so true. BTW I did not understand
    this statement of yours *I was of the same opinion as the one you mentioned towards the end until I got to see that it's not that true.* What did you mean by that?

    Marja:same here.

    Prats:It was only through net that i met you--and we know people in common!! It is indeed a small world.Meeting you on the net proves the case in point!

    Ritu: yes--I think it depends on US--how real WE want it to be.Looking forward for that movie!will call you.

    Keshi:Yes--wisely said--if you are a cheat, you will be one--offline or online.

  15. they are as real as you allow/want them to be :)

    a lot depends on ur lifestyle and your social circle outside the virtual world... i think there should be some strong inverse co-relation with your relationships in the 'real' world and the 'virtual' world. I risk to conjecture that if you have an active life in the 'real' wolrd meeting and be-friending real people... chances are you wont be spending too much time online :)

    I remember once when I was quite hurt to be referred to as a 'Net-friend' - to think of it, probably I have a notion in me that "net friends" arent as important/real as other important people.

    But then... i wont be surprised when we end up having only virtual friends sometime in the future generations :)

  16. and i, my dear, for THE email...good to read what everyone thought

  17. Raghu: Thanks for stopping by! Scroll up--that was EXACTLY what i told
    Ritu--That virtual friends are as real as you want thm to be.As regards second statement--that you wont have time if you have real friends--I disagree.I think it just depends on how comfortable you are online.A person like me moves every three years.I have good freinds in almost all places I have lived in.I am very much in touch with them, on a regular basis despite being in different cities.Internet has helped!

    Thinkingaloud:Check your inbox!

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  19. I dont have many online friends, because i dnt like chatting much, in fact, i try to call or e-mail my friends instead of chatting with them. You are the only 'online friend' i really have, and a few 'fellow bloggers'. But never once did it cross my mind that u guys live in virtual world or are 'online friends'. For me you are a 'real' friend, whom, although, i have never met, but nonetheless, i care for just like my 'physical' friends. God, this is really confusing, end line, i dont distinguish bet real and virtual friends. Friends are just friends, what matters is whether u click with them or not.

  20. Raghu: This is leading to a really interesting discussion! I am abandoning what I should be doing to reply to this!
    You know what Mark twain said? "There are three kind of lies--lies, damn lies and statistics"!Therefore 'statistically' can mean anything!And no--most people who visit my blog are not my friends--but they became 'online friends' after visiting my blog.Most of my friends in 'real life' dont even read my blog or do not even have 'online' friends (arent on orkut or facebook or any other site)--therefore will not be able to relate to what I am talking about.
    Why do we blog? All of us have our reasons.For me it was because of this
    I do value your observations and your little notes, as you call them.

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  22. I haven't read all comemnts, but I know this.
    Virtual's as real as it gets. For me at least. :)

  23. Interesting post, made me think a lot too. I totally agree with the first comment by Devil Mood that "some [online friends] are more real" and that "people have different degrees of 'seriousness' concerning their online friendships".
    It seems these days people are looking more and more for 'fast-food' friendships, and it's especially clear in Instant Messaging like MSN: people who add you from nowhere, simply because they liked your picture or the like, and then start a regular conversation that may last a few minutes to days and months, until you say something they don't like to hear. At this point most of them will simply 'delete & block' you without further explanation, leaving you with a horrible feeling of been something disposable of. (I know lots of people who quitted using MSN simply because of this cruel feature.) They think they can 'turn-off' you as if they were watching a DVD and disliked a scene, totally forgetting that at the other side of the line there stands a 'real' person like themselves.

  24. Ugh.. now that sentence doesn't make sense to me too.. must've been outta my elements while leaving a comment :P

  25. Hi.

    Nice to know that u treat ur virtue friends as ur real friends n why not so. I think what we cant share with our real friends, we share wid our online friends to whom we have never met. I think my online friends r more close to us.

    Regarding ur friend who told that they are like timepass, I cant comment on him. coz every person is having a different view. For him, may be friends, relationships does nt matter. He is not one who consider like this there r an number of persons who are having a view like this. Well, cant change their views bt for us it can be a horror comment.

    Well, In my own views, whether i hv not met wid any of my blog friends, yet i do respect for them . More than my real friends. Touch Wood!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. I am very glad you have asked this important question. The blogging world has entirely redefined the meaning of friendship. There is the real world and there is now an equally valid cyberworld of friendship. And the beauty of the cyberworld is that it can move into the real world. I've met many of my online friends f2f and am genuinely blessed and better for having met these people. My world has expanded beyond anything I might have imagined. But with this new way of making friends comes a new set of rules that mostly fall under the heading of safety only because we don't knows these people starting out, f2f. Common sense and good judgment are number one requirements. And as with all friends, you will find the disappointments. The one above that your reference is certainly a disappointment but his comments says more about himself than the worth of those he corresponded with. I'm guessing he does not last too long in anyone's circle.

  27. Hi PS
    I made a lot of friends thru blogging.
    Nice face lift to blog

  28. i have to give you credit...couldn't have picked a better time to write this post.

    everyone has online friends...its starts when kids chat online, then they join networking sites, which gives them access to thousands of meet some, some meet you, you start chatting, you fall in decide to meet. 9/10 times its a disaster...
    few people are lucky.
    but how well do you really know a person online?
    still..sometimes its good to take chances.

    btw, i like the flaming red color for my name.
    suits my mood.. burning bright.

    anyway, one point will always remain.
    unless you technically don't meet the person, they are just a bunch of binary numbers..floating around in cyberspace.

    Lol, kidding. Regardless of whether you know some in real life or via online, once a "mental connection" has been made, you can't help but start caring for them. This is the prime scenario for bloggers... for blogs are about people's thoughts. Once the thoughts make a connection, wham!, you made a new friend.

    i am gonna steal some lines from the matrix now.
    What is real? how do you define real? if real is what you see, what you feel, then 'real' is simply electric signals interpreted by your brain?

    far as online relationships go...
    until its just a friends or otherwise...its ok.
    Once it passes that barrier and reaches into the "love" zone, its wise not to go head over heels and first actually find out more about the other person in real life.

    sigh... look who's talking.. i should be the last guy to say this.
    I went head over heels just day before... well i guess sometimes you go where your instincts take you.
    i guess in the end...its up to you. Real can be..whatever you want it to be.

  29. Rads:Thats exactly what i said too in one of the comments! You are so right.

    Guto:I too find it horrible when people do not relate to a 'real' person.Turning off (like a DVD) does indeed happen and it just shows it taks all kinds to make up this world.

    J: :-)

    Sandhya: yep--touch wood.

    Annie: You are very right.Just like in the real world in the vitual world too, there can be let downs--and the beauty of it, kike you said, is that virtual can indeed become real--and virtual can serve as a powerful tool to be in touch with real.

    Raghu:That was indeed moving.God bless.

  30. Deepak: Thanks!Nice to see you back--shall drop by soon!

    Hershey:*Regardless of whether you know some in real life or via online, once a "mental connection" has been made, you can't help but start caring for them. This is the prime scenario for bloggers... for blogs are about people's thoughts.* You said it so well! You are so right.
    And what--you are in love?!!!!Tell all, NOW!!

  31. I wish I could tell all, but sometimes the other person may not be read to hear forget, she reads my blogs too.

    But I will tell all that i possibly can and still be within my boundaries...just typing it all up right now.

  32. @hershey **sometimes you go where your instincts take you.
    i guess in the end...its up to you. Real can be..whatever you want it to be.**
    So well said. Its all a personal sentiment....if one virtual friend connects with each other, it might just not work for some other.
    It may also be the case, where a person might cross certain boundaries and then the connection snaps, howver well the connection was made.
    Nothing is perfect, so even here I think we have to give a certain amount of trust in our own acceptance of the friend...and take it from there.

  33. Hi,
    I too considered it as a waste of time till I started to blog in august this year.honestly,I consider it wonderful to interact with people and their expressions which perhaps would have never surfaced in the real life.
    Perhaps here we interact more with thought process,emotions and intellect ,which possibly are becoming non existant in real life due to many paucity of time,distance and may be due to social pressures etc
    My 3 months in blog have been very stimulating and I just sequenced them today and posted.
    This blogworld requires more people like you who have amazing clarity of thought and expressions
    Keep blogging

  34. This is such a complex topic. I'm a little cynical about online friendships at the moment I'm afraid having been disappointed a few timnes recently. I think ultimately, like real life, it comes down to the people involved and how they view the relationships. If they are open to virtual relationships becomeing real then they will be, if they aren't open to it then it can never be anything more than a casual online acquaintance.

    I think getting to know someone this way can be like navigating a minefield in some ways as much communication that we do face to face relies on tone of voice and facial expression. Online this is lost adn only words are left. It can be easy to interpret things incorrectly.

    Having said all that, I view the people I 'converse' with online as real people and I enjoy reading what they ahve to say adn getting to know them. Like yourself for instance :)

  35. i really am as confused as u are...there was a time when i thought tht there was absolutely no difference between real and virtual relationships...but somewhere down the line i have realised tht the screen in between makes a big difference sometimes :)...

  36. some ppl may be insensitive ...but i guess more of us become caring even for our intrnet frnds...even love happens thr...and why not!

    puttin up from my experience of life, i have been scrwd by ppl..who were known, real, who met me, whom i knew...when 'known' can do this...why nt try out the 'unknown'..really, they r much more trustwrthy coz u hardly have anything to loose there...

    anyways...a very nice blog, got my mind ticking! keep up!!!

    :D cheers!

  37. Prats:Thank you--and but for the virtual world we would have never 'met'! How it shrinks boundaries.

    CU: yes--blogging is an amazing platform as i too am discovering.

    Bob_Kat:Yes--online one doesnt hear the tone or see the body language..and yes--I too consider you very real!:-)

    Pri:and ironically, sometimes it doesnt!!

    Neha:Thanks! and you are right--in real life too one can be let down,just as in virtual world.

  38. never did i imagine tht i wud meet real people in the blogsphere...eventhough theres still a glass wall between all of us, I wud like to think its there becoz of the world we live in , not becoz of the people we are...

    no matter wht nonsense i write, it does matter to me that what i write is being read by real people, with real lives...

    it takes guts to reach out ...sometimes the anonymity or rather the non objectiveness of the fellow bloggers makes them the ideal voice board...

    to me all of u r real and u probably know more about me than a lot of people who really knows me...

  39. i guess online friends are also friends. I cannot distinguish between real and virtual friends. Infact, sometimes they connect with us at a more fair level than real people, you know, cause there is very little to judge, very little of what will i get in return etc. btw, Remember Mitra?

  40. I spend over 12 hrs in front of my computer and for me if I make a friend over internet she/he would be also belong to my list of real friends.. I have found some of my friends whom i meet over internet, (i dont agree with the term virtual coz they are real to me) more understanding and considerate than others..

  41. One has to be really thoughtless and uncaring to see their online friends as only a group of words or as an e-mail ID. There are times when u have bad days and the only reason u have to smile is something that ur net friend just said.
    ... now isn't that something?
    Many of us find talking online more comfortable than face to face talk. Here we get to talk out our minds to another person, share thoughts.. which naturally creates a connection between two ppl.. not 2 ID's! It is absolutely impossible to consider that person as virtual.. I don't understand how someone could be so thoughtless. In my case, I have met quite a few of my net friends (that was a bonus point.. wouldn't have made much of a difference to our already lovely friendship even otherwise I guess) and even the ones I haven't met don't get separately categorized into some 'virtual' category. I turn to them for help, to share my little joys and sorrows, just like I would turn to a friend.. er.. a friend I made in the conventional way.. A friendship, whether online or not, a friend, whether u have met them or not, I think is always taken seriously. No exceptions.

  42. It's funny, and I may be naive, but I don't think friends are friends. We have not met yet, as you say, but friends none the less. When you posted about your dad, I carried a weight around that day after I read your post. When Gawpo was screwed over by the avionics guy, I felt angry. I now am aware of so many things because of the online friends. I have spoken on the phone to a few bloggers, and now consider trips to meet these people. I would relish the chance to get over to India and spend time with you, it would be amazing. One day we will.
    Until then, Happy Diwali to one of my best online friends. YOU!
    ps...PS, thank you for considering me a friend. I am honoured.

  43. The irony lies wherein sometimes, you don't have such deep relationships in "real" life.
    This leads to another dilemma, "how real is real?" :D

  44. I consider my blog to my space - a place where I can vent, make random comments and just chill. It's like my house.

    And with my house I'd have an open door which allows people to drop by and chat through comments and the like. Some stay and become regulars, others just drop by once and never come back and more often there are those who just come to watch the conversations.

    I believe that online friendships are as REAL as those in real life, but the vastness of the internet still is like mask between them and yourself. Sometimes they are just there to convince you that you're not alone. But perhaps you'll never really know them or be able to be a friend as we do to those face-to-face.

    But despite all that, friendship is not defined by boundaries such as virtual and reality. If you like them, you do. If you enjoy their company, then you do. Friends are friends in whatever context.

  45. You know, my "real" friends tell me that my life is zero without the internet. I have more no. of online friends who care!! They start calling/messaging even if I'm not online for a day. It was just 2 days ago when I wasn't online for 24 hours and one of my best friends(online) messaged me "Where were you? Not been online for so long?" He is an online friend for the past 7 years. We've shared a fair amount of experiences about our lives with each other. And I can confide in him more than most of my "real friends", because we've known each other for so long! And you know, we can't believe we haven't met each other yet!! Sure, things wouldn't be any different. But now, we have decided to meet.

    (I came across your blog by chance)

    Nice blog. Got me thinking!

  46. I think i got one more good blog

    About this post Whats real what virtual...
    See this post The Last FaceSo many comments i don't think anyone met Waiter. He was anonymous for many years. Still he rocks, relaxing at his vacuum tube computer screen [;)]

    It depends on more what you do how you respond

  47. I hadn't read this post of yours. Thanks a lot for the link. I'm going to link this from my post :)

  48. Maybe the person who do not give a damn to online friends is insensitive in real life as well.
    However, having only virtual friends is 'real'ly bad. :-)

  49. Anonymous7:05 PM

    There's as real, sometimes more. I've seen both sides of it, you know? A few creeps and a few people who are almost my family now. So like in the real world, you gotta be a bit cautious around new people... but ultimately, virtual ai'nt that different from real :)

  50. I got interested in the internet when i ws in college coz i felt it ws a place where i cud bitch about everything i hate n dislike in life...n i had a lot of online chatting friends who liked bitching too...we wud chat n chat until our wrists ached n slowly one by one all of us got busy with careers, n families n stopped coming online so regularly...n nw i hv lost that id totally n god knows wht happened to all those friends...since they r from different countries i never bothered to take their numbers n i lost all their email there ended the virtual relations i had...i think i stopped trusting nything virtual after tht...n its the same with my blog...i'd get busy n disappear for a while n so do my readers except for one or two...n nw i know tht these relations end with ur laptop or computer...once ur out of tht they no longer exist unless like you said ur willing to actually meet them in real life (if its possible provided they're in the same place where you are) or maybe u cud become phone friends too but even tht's limited to the phone..u lose ur number one day n u might not have a mobile for a yr or 2 after tht n u lose all ur friends who liked chatting with u on ur times like we also know who our real frineds are....


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