Remember when Internet was not the hype yet. Remember when news were only heard from the television, radio and press and we were only bound to be familiar with the played songs on the radio. Remember those times when we were only limited to meeting a certain type of people who do not necessarily share the same interests as us and there were times when we would feel isolated knowing there was no one we could share our fandom feels. Unless we were able to deal with different mindsets and passions, we would not stand a chance in gaining friends.
And there came the Internet. It was mainly used in the workplace in 80’s-90’s and was first introduced in the household during the 2000 decade. While social media and online gaming are on the rise, many people consider looking for online friends, preferably those who share the same interests and passions. These friends are also known as virtual life or VL friends and virtual friend finders tend to use them as their online confidants with whom they can spazz their fandoms. There are even times when they tend to spill their problems and ask for an advice to their online friends, assuming that they can also relate so much they can provide some help.
Yet the virtual world is not a perfect place to be. Some tend to overestimate their friends met through virtual interactions so much that they forget that these kind of interactions also have their flaws. The following are the downside factors that one must expect when meeting people online.
1) Your friend may be a lot more different in person.
Internet provides us the opportunity to project ourselves and some people may only choose to project the person they want to be in order to be accepted. Even as they reveal the “real” them online, it still gives a different feeling to see their offline personality – their voices and their intonation, the way they act and look in person, and their real-life behavior and attitudes, all of which may be different from online. It will take time to figure out whether virtual friends can also make real-life close friends. A virtual friend will remain a complete stranger until the first meeting and if life does not provide an opportunity for virtual friends to meet, then they will be forever “stranger friends.”
2) As much as there are real-life people who are eyesores, there is also a chance that you will meet these kinds in the Internet.
There is no escape from negative feedback and criticisms even as you enter the virtual world. This is proven through trash talks frequently seen in YouTube, online blogs and forums, as well as in personal-interaction based websites like Twitter. There are also as much fights, issues and gossips as in real life communities. There is no guarantee for escape from atrocities in virtual interactions and they will only guarantee you the same set of real-life problems.
Not forgetting to mention that meeting people online can involve a lot of risk. There is a high risk that you will meet a criminal in disguise (e.g. date rapist, a pedophile, hacker, scammer..) and if not, a person who will attempt to steal your pictures and identity and pose as you. It is best not to provide too much specifics especially if it will make you traceable enough to a stranger’s eye. And best not to provide specifics that will highlight your social status (rich people tend to be the online criminal’s top victims).
3) It will take time to figure out whether your closest virtual friends can make your closest virtual, or rather real-life friends.
As mentioned previously, it will take time to figure out their real-life personality even as you meet in person. This means it will still take time to figure out whether you are meant to be close friends in real life, which may either happen or not depending on how you get along. In the meantime, you can still refer to them as virtual/online best friends as long as you have not met each other in person.
4) Friends do come and go in real life. Same goes in the Internet.
And that is the sad fact of life. There will come a time when your virtual BFFs will be so busy with their real-life stuffs that they will no longer have time to still interact with you. Your virtual close friends may no longer be your close friends as time passes and their posts may no longer be as interesting as you used to think. There will be some virtual friends of yours who will no longer reply back to your comments. Some of them will even consider cutting communications with you for no reason, simply because you just do not interact with each other anymore. Unlike real-life friendships that can still be restored through reunions and simple invites, online friendships can never be as replenished.
5) And finally, it is the real life friends that give us the most comfort.
They may not fully relate to you and give better advice than their online counterparts but they are still the ones to provide you comfort when you are down. They are the ones to give you a hug, to wipe your tears, to show up at your door and to invite you for a coffee to make you feel better. There is certainly such thing as virtual hugs and comforting online messages but a physically given comfort provides a different unforgettable touched feeling. Even though online interactions are at its peak, one should never neglect the importance of spending time with offline friends. And besides they are the ones to show up at your funeral when you die (while your virtual friends will only think that you went inactive, not care about your heard death or, luckily for you, send “RIP” mentions).
This article only seeks to point out the downsides of virtual friendships. The virtual world is not as perfect as those friend finders tend to assume and there is no reason for them to choose them over real-life friendships proving that they are better. Meanwhile, I am personally thankful that virtual friendships exist. They provide us the opportunity to communicate with people sharing our passions and interests, as well as to discover things that none of our real-life friends have made us discover. We can also turn to them whenever our offline friends cannot afford to help us or whenever there are problems we are uncomfortable sharing with them. Online friends are the ones not to make us feel alone, making us come out of our isolated selves that Internet-less world had conditioned.
In short, it is all about a matter of balancing friendships. While we can spend our time wholeheartedly with our real-life friends, it is with virtual-life friends with whom we can share our passion-related perks.
DISCLAIMER: This article does not aim to harm any virtual friend or people who are into virtual friendships. It only seeks to point out the downsides of such interactions, which some tend to overestimate.