There are friends, good friends and best friends. The recent years have added one more category there, Online friends. Friends who we meet and know exclusively online. The very definition of these friends makes the relationship very sensitive and particularly tough to manage. Let us explore this phenomenon today
The internet has brought about many wonderful changes to our lives. We meet a large number of people on various sites like twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on. There are many examples of these friendships lasting a long time and then there are examples of these going horribly bad. So is it a good idea to have a lot of online friends? Let us take a closer look at this.
Human Nature is basically hardwired not to trust people we have not met in person. And there are only very few trusting people who do not have this in their core nature. The rest of us mere mortals always look at online friends with a doubt. To a point, that is ok and even recommended too. There are a lot of sore apples lurking around the dark edges of the internet that can cause a lot of harm to us. Identity theft is growing to be a huge menace and people are going to their wit’s end to keep their identity safe online.
Here are a few rules that I follow when it comes to online friends
Take your time to “befriend” people online – If you rush in and trust everyone you meet, then you are in for trouble. Meet people, evaluate them, engage them and then consider trusting them.
Have clear criteria for online friend selection – Mine are as follows: They should have a consistent avatar across all sites, they should not be hiding behind anonymity and finally they should be saying and doing the same thing across all platforms
Stay away from radicals – wingnuts cannot be trusted and should not be trusted. Also remember that activists and wingnuts are two different things. Activists stand for causes and are generally excellent human beings with good values and wingnuts are just nuts who lack any logic or compassion.
Gather the right crowd – surround yourself with like minded people and the experience will be good. Otherwise you will stick out like a lemon in an apple basket.
In summary, online friendships are good if you know what you are getting into and have done enough homework around the person in question. Just like every other place to make friends, the internet is also full of the right and wrong people, you reap what you sow. One thing I always do is checkout a person on LinkedIn. That is one place where most people cannot and will not fudge information about themselves.
There are many examples of Great Online friendships that I have come across. I have personally had the great fortune of making many brilliant friends who have stood by me in my toughest of times online. There are many friends who are closer than family who started only online for me. So what I am saying is, like the IRL version, online friendships are worth the effort that goes into maintaining them, you just need to be a tad bit careful about who your friends are.
I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.