How Valuable are Virtual Friends?

Mom 2.0 Summit 2011

It is 2:33am.

I just had a Skype chat with with my friend @heathersolos as she started her writing day on the east coast and I began to close my writing night on the pacific coast.

And it makes me grateful.

I have a wealth of incredible friends — real friends whom I treasure, who make me laugh until I am wiping tears off my cheeks in Starbucks, with strangers at the table next to me wondering about the odd girl talking to her laptop.

They are friends whom I turn to on good days and on cruel days.

We live our lives so close we share a bed in a crammed hotel room and so far that we don’t see each other for months.

We can’t stop by for coffee, or meet each other for a play date at the park. When one of us is sick, we can’t run to the store and pick up Tylenol and ginger-ale.

And while I wish my neighborhood were jammed with each one of my incredible “virtual” friends, I am just grateful that they are in my world.

As bloggers, we have this common thread of intimacy — an instinct to connect. I think it is why I feel so close to so many of my online friends. We write. We listen. We talk. We understand.

But, are those “virtual” friends as valuable, as critical to our happiness and fulfillment, as “in real life” friends? Should we be sacrificing so much of the time that we could be investing in local friends and family on friends who live thousands of miles away?

Because, the reality is, when I spend an hour talking with @youngmommy or @childmode on the phone, it is taking time away from my family or my offline friends.

Is that healthy? Am I investing too much in my virtual world?

I think you know my answer — I live it every day. While I protect my time with my family and try to carve out nights with my husband and our couple friends, I will not give up my online friends.

Whether the friendships started with single tweet or with an introduction in a crowded party at BlogHer, my virtual friends are anything but virtual. They are as real and as valuable to me as if we went to grade school together.

Some are just beginning and some are already deep with age. But to me they are all worth every moment invested.

What about you?

Do you spend more time cultivating your online friendships or your offline friendships? Do you feel you should be spending more time offline? Have you found a way to bring both worlds together with local blogging friends?

Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.
Wanna chat? Find me at: @5minutesformom, @janicecroze and Facebook.com/5minutesformom.

Comments

  1. says

    I spend A LOT of time online with my virtual friends…but I think of it as you do…they are just as REAL as my other friends that I see in real life. I love my online friends…I actually see meeting people online as being essential sometimes to meeting the people you really get along with. Because I may not be geologically BY the people I truly bond with. Meeting friends is the reason I blog…everything else I do on my blog I do to make friends…REAL friends!! ;)

    • says

      Friends are friends no matter how near or how far. Friends are the family that you may not be biologically related to but they are the family that you choose. The bonds of friendship are precious and to be savored no matter the face to face lack or not. Sometimes that voice or words of wisdom are enough to make life grand.

  2. says

    I stopped differentiating between ‘real’ friends and ‘bloggy’ friends. My friends are my friends…the people who care to connect, no matter the means, and form a bond over shared interests.

    PS…I just met some friends I made through blogging at the WOF Conference in Atlanta. I immediately knew some of them were ‘real’ friends, because it seemed as though we were able to pick up our ‘real’ conversation where our ‘virtual’ one had left off earlier in the week. :)
    That and the fact that one of them bailed me out when I left my ticket outside the conference center. Only a ‘real’ friend would do that! LOL

    Great post! Can’t wait to see all the commentary. Happy Tuesday! :)

  3. says

    I agree that virtual friends should still be considered friends. Virtual or not, sometimes they are more supportive than anyone in real life. The anonymous nature of blogging almost brings us closer because we aren’t afraid/don’t care about being judged.

    WM

  4. says

    I don’t distinguish between the two! I would call my family that live far away “virtual family” they are FAMILY. My friends are FRIENDS. I think if you are spending time disconnected with the family you live with then there is nothing wrong with having friends from all over. Some of my virtual friends have dropped everything to help other virtual friends. It’s an amazing thing. I don’t know many people in my “real” life that would do that.

  5. says

    WOW.

    So many wonderful points in this post.

    First, I think the chord of guilt is struck in me. Do online friends make me neglect or not nurture my real life friends?

    Second, why do I need to distinguish?

    Lots more that can be written on this.

    THANK YOU.

    • says

      Thank you for responding Alexandra. Yes – i think that there are complicated emotions involved for all women as they try to balance and give appropriate time to all of the important people in their lives.

      But yes – for me, I don’t need to distinguish. If they are important to me, then I want to invest my time.

  6. says

    Wonderful. And I echo Alexandra here, about not wishing to differentiate, and to see it as enrichment. Its certainly possible to isolate yourself further from real life if you are cultivating only online friendships, and I agree this subject could be explored in much more depth.

    • says

      yes – I think many of us who are deeply entrenched online no longer distinguish between online and offline. But yes, it is also important to have face to face relationships.

  7. says

    gah- Janice I am sitting here bawling! I love my online friends (like YOU) because they are REAL friends. We invest our time in each other, we work to get to know each other, we support each other the only way we can… with comments, and Skype conversations and DM’s and texts… and we anxiously anticipate seeing each other IRL at a conference like Blissdom Canada!

    My on line friends are vital to my sanity and well being.

    But oh how I wish we could just sit together and chat face to face, I wish I could help IRL when you are sick, I wish I could take your kids when you are overwhelmed, or escape for a girls night out with you & Sue and leave the world behind for a few hours!

    My online friends are some of the very best in the world.

    love you!

  8. says

    Perfectly said. As my friendships only deepen for my online friends (that I thankfully get to see several times a year at conferences) I realize that many of my real life neighbor friendships (not the long term bff friends) seem much more shallow.
    We know this “other virtual world” that many of our friends don’t know or understand. Can’t image life now without them.
    But as you said.. the hardest part is not being able to be there for them in person when real life hands out those lemons that it often does.

    • says

      Yes – so true on all counts. I am shocked really that people whom have been “close” irl friends for decades know so much less about my life and struggles than my dearest friends whom I first met online.

  9. says

    I like what Gena said. I no longer distinguish between the two. The truth is, I can be more “me” with my online friends, and I have met enough of those friends in person now that I know that the relationships we build online translate perfectly to real life connections!

  10. says

    I guess I don’t even think of my “virtual friends” as virtual anymore, because I love you all so much. True, I can’t see you every day, or even every month! But the friends I’ve made online are wonderful, caring, smart and supportive women and I wouldn’t trade you for anything. Love you Janice!!

  11. says

    OMG I”m so guilty of this. I think I have about 2 IRL friends and like 10 in social media. What I love about social media is the ability to find people with the same interests as you so quickly, but IRL that is harder. How many fitness nuts do you know with a child of special needs and an “kinda out there” personality. I can find people like me online so easily. We are a tribe of digital pixie moms. We can sprinkle our virtual love where we please. I heart you. Thanks for writing this post and making me feel connected. :)

  12. says

    My ‘online’ friends know just as much about me, if not more, than many of my ‘real life’ friends…. and you know what that makes me ‘online’ friends? Real life people I trust, love and care about. The only time I find myself having to qualify is when I’m talking to people in person – when they don’t know who I’m talking about – and I hae to explain HOW I know that friend…..

    The truth is….. a friend is a friend is a friend. And many of you people? Well, you are friends :) xoxo

    • says

      yes — qualifying!!! that is the perfect word for the situation we so often find ourselves in when we are in our offline worlds!

      Yes – friend is a friend is a friend! Hugs to you my friend!!!

  13. says

    I find it’s easier to talk to people online sometimes than it is in RL. But that’s because I’m extremely introverted & shy when I first meet people in RL (though I’ve been told that I don’t appear shy, just stand-offish). I think I’d be pretty nervous meeting online folks in person, but I think it would be also be fun to see the faces of people I’ve only seen online. I admire how you have great connections with people and consider them to be friends no matter where they are located!

  14. says

    I’ve written about this recently as well. I cant begin to express how important my online friends (most of whom I have never laid eyes on) were over the past 16 months. I was battling an aggressive cancer while taking care of an infant growing into a toddler. My real world friends stopped by from time to time, but my online friends were critical as well through that dark time. There was always someone there to reach through the interwebs, even at 3 in the morning. I didn’t have to feel alone or isolated. My internet friends are precious to me. Some day I hope to be able to meet more of them.

  15. says

    Amen you drew me in with this one. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my online friends and in many ways I am closer to them than my IRL friends, but the fact is they are my IRL friends too. I’ve traveled across the country numerous times to meet them and share time with them. It is true friendship and I”d argue that debate any day!

  16. says

    There comes a moment when the online friends ARE your “real” friends, and then the two worlds can never TRULY be separated. It may be easier to see a friend that lives around the corner, but I am still close with friends who have moved away: does that make them less real? No.

  17. says

    I love the blogging friends I have met, and one in particular I consider my best friend. I never thought that was possible, but thanks to Skype, we talk daily and with her I can cry, laugh, or anything. What is neat is that she isn’t just an online friend…we have met in person several times, and our husbands and kids even met at BlogHer. I consider her an offline friend as well…we just don’t live near each other :)

    I never dreamed how close I could become with people I have met online. Us bloggers all think alike too, and really can relate to each other, it seems.

    By the way, I REALLY wanted to meet you two at BlogHer, but it just didn’t happen. One of these days!

  18. says

    Some of the very best friendships with which I have been blessed are ‘online’ friendships. The way those friends care and make me feel can in no way be diminished simply because I talk to them online rather than face-to-face.
    I moved 750 miles away from ‘home’… and now I talk to my best friend since 4th grade on instant messenger. Would that make her a ‘virtual’ friend now? Nope.
    To me, there is no difference. A friendship is based on emotions and experiences, not location.

  19. says

    Online friends can be lifelines…. and maybe the realest friends don’t live in “real life” space or “cyberspace” — just heart space.

    Standing ovation, Janice! *Thank you* for putting it into words…

    All’s grace,
    Ann

  20. says

    I think I go back and forth. Sometimes I’m more into my online friends and sometimes more into my IRL friends. It’s like an up and down motion. Currently I think I’m more into my real world friends… You know, now that I’m thinking about it, there’s also a time when I just stay to myself. Well, in addition to totally being in mommy mode.

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