Since I started publishing my blog about a year and a half ago, I have started numerous email and "chat" conversations with several "virtual friends", people I do not know in real life (and found over the Internet, especially from Zero Hedge), but who have similar interests to mine and who are friendly at the same time. Before starting my blog, I had about two virtual friends, now I have several that I keep in regular contact with.
My "real friends" are people who I actually know in person and try to visit with whenever possible. They are a diverse lot, and it looks like I am about to tap into a new source of friends from a group I have recently joined.
The best definition of a "friend" is someone you with whom you enjoy their company, passing some time with them. Friendship has been shown to have numerous benefits: lowering stress and keeping self-perceived happiness higher are just two of them.
I even now have what I will call "hybrid friends" (NO INSULT!!!), those who I know (personally) SOME, but am staying in contact with...
I read a few years ago a book that predicted that the Very Rich would eventually identify more with their "class" (as in "Upper Class") more so than their nationality. The book made a powerful case, in that the Very Rich would have similar interests and problems (mainly those who would confiscate their wealth as well as exploring business & investment opportunities). I regret that I cannot remember the title of that book...
I suspect that is probably happening today, the Very Rich getting together when they can, more so than in the past, because the Internet makes it easier to find each other. I do not mean the Elite (Bilderbergers, etc.), as they (the Elite) have always gotten together... We know this has been going on, the Very (Very) Rich getting together to plot and plan, because we know a lot about the founding of the Federal Reserve (1913) and the planning that went on YEARS before.
But, this article is about virtual friends and real friends. My virtual friends have almost always approached me in response to something I had written, whether at Zero Hedge or at my blog itself. I have met personally with two people from Zero Hedge, one was a virtual friend for sometime (and has since moved north, que pena...) and the other who has since moved on (maybe because our interests are not as much as in common as we had guessed). At least one is from Europe. I stay in regular touch with at least TEN virtual friends, and I occasionally hear from a few others. All of them are friendly. All of them share at least some common interests similar to my own.
My virtual friends share an interest in gold, the financial system and related topics. I have had extensive communications with some, have offered advice (FWTW, which is nearly zero) and just sending links and jokes with each other.
My sort-of infamous Joke List (up to about 45 people) has about 50% virtual friends on it. We do not even KNOW each other, yet we stay in touch...
I do not know if someone has studied this (probably so, almost "everything" has been studied...), but this phenomenon cannot be happening to just me.
My thinking is that this is mostly a very good thing. Yes, there are risks that the weak and/or unwary can be entrapped or make some mistakes in dealing with people they do not even know. But, so far, I have not had any real problems.
Hey, with ONE exception, no one in my family knows anything or even cares about gold...
Another thought I would throw out for my readers' review is that the risk of making and keeping Real Friends might be at risk, especially by those of us who spend a lot (too much?) time on the computer. Yes, I see the risk. Writing thoughts to people you do not know (in person) is a low risk way of venting and/or communicating, but the "real" component of friendship is left out.
This topic HAS been explored, especially in that many lonely people have been unable (for a variety of reasons) to make real friendships, especially those looking for love... So, they make up for it by by having lots of virtual friendships (and even virtual sex...).
Left out of virtual friendship is the fellowship of BEING with one or more friends: just shooting the bull, hoisting a beer, going on a "field trip" (shooting our guns for me, taking day trips or going to the opera for my wife) or just hanging out... "Just hanging out" was often the thing I did the most when I was younger, with my friends.
Also, the intangible (body language, meals or events together, hearing real laughter) things are missed in virtual friendships...
"Someone" has probably studied some of the social media and the phenomenon that many of us have seen at Facebook. Some of my 55 or so "friends" (most of them real friends, including two of them from my childhood that I had LONG lost contact with) at Facebook have HUNDREDS of friends...
Once I did a quick & dirty calculation as to how many "friends" I had made in my entire life. During this exercise, I counted as a "friend" anyone whom I had gotten their name and had a real conversation with. A very loose definition of friendship! But, I did this to see how people younger than me could have 600 or more "friends", just at Facebook... My count of friends works out to about 350 - 450 people (remember, these are just people I had had a real conversation with). Maybe I undercounted, maybe, say, I have had 500 "friends" in that sense. That still pales by comparison to the 600 - 1000 I have seen in a couple of cases. Of course, for those who have hundreds at Facebook, almost all would be virtual, and maybe not even that (just running up the count).
A topic which was crept through the door, and which in part prompted this post at my blog, is the idea of converting (or partially converting) virtual friends into real friends.
My favorite blogger has recently been interviewing some of his followers via video with Skype (and posting these to his blog), and so to an extant making his virtual friendships a little closer. This is an idea that I had not run into before, but may be fascinating to follow. He has so far interviewed (or "debriefed") four of his more knowledgeable and technically adept followers. And his blog has had over 3,000,000 "hits" (single visits). Those interested might take a look:
So, there are my thoughts on this topic I have pondered on a bit. As with ALL of my friends, I welcome your thoughts and comments!