With the speed of the Internet, a change in how people relate has occurred. For some unknown reason, I feel the need to post about this. Before going into the online/off-line worlds and the relations, I need to define “friend”. For the purpose of this post, a friend is not someone who sends you an online message and says “lets be friends” or someone you added as a friend on myspace. A friend in this post is someone who would understand that a difference of opinion is acceptable, someone who you can talk to if you’re having a problem and would not make fun of the situation or tell everyone who doesn’t need to know. So, now that we’ve covered that, here we go..
It used to be that a “friend” was someone who you got to know over time.. may see every few days or was a friend of a friend who you got to know better over time. Recently, thanks to online chat networks, gaming and other online activities relationships live and die faster than ever before. There’s both good and bad to this, but I think that the “average user” really never takes the time to consider the difference in how relationships are established online.
One on one relationships in real life take a while usually.. you meet regularly, may be involved in a project and work side by side for a while.. and over time a friendship (or hate) is developed. In the online world, you can do projects with someone for a short time while typing back and forth and think you’ve met your soul mate after 3 hours of chatting. I’ve seen this happen repeatedly in virtual worlds.. someone wanders up to someone offers help to a new player and lends a hand.. lets say the new player needs a house.. so they build together and talk.. and are “friends” after 1 night. This friendship is no less “real” than a friendship built over weeks off-line, however it is so sudden that there will be things the 2 people don’t know about each other which could make or break the relationship over time. The ability to be semi-anonymous may also play a part in this depending on the mindset of the individuals involved.. but that’s for another post ..the relationships are more fragile due to the speed they happen at - often they escalate to hardcore relationships or immediately fall apart.
Group relationships are probably the most difficult to maintain long-term online. The first part of the problem is the one on one relationship being more volatile thanks an off-line relationship already. Groups are also more difficult due to people in groups not always agreeing and getting along.. plus with online communities, many people belong to a number of groups that they try to be involved with at the same time which either takes time away from the other groups or they attempt to combine the different groups into 1 larger community.. and there is more conflict than they expected. The community part gets more complicated when “friends of friends” are involved and the community attempts to set a direction.
I realize that this post sounds negative towards online relationships, but it’s not meant to - just wanted to point out that these relationships are more difficult usually than off-line ones. I’ve had the pleasure of being in positive versions of both personal and group relationships online. My wife is the best example of the personal version. We are two people who met and had a shared interest who eventually fell in love (over years). I have a few groups of friends online too.. most are unorganized groups at this point who stay in contact as a group yet have separate interests and groups they spend the majority of their time with.