The inventions and developments in the technological spheres have not just taken control over our professional lives but have also filtered into our personal lives, our relationships. Almost everyone who is acquainted with the internet has a social media profile and or has interacted with strangers via anonymous chat boxes. Most of us now not only have friends in our real life whom we meet on a regular basis but also a set of friends in the virtual world, people whose presence can be felt only through the virtual medium called the internet.
The debate on which is better is a never ending one. However, it is to be understood that both have their merits and demerits. The virtual friends that we make are often people whom we haven’t met, people about whom we practically know nothing and yet have bonded over emotionally on a common thread. Real friends are however people whom we see, whom we can touch and whose physical presence solidify their existence, make them more real, tangible and dependable in most cases. Virtual friends, however, often help people to be more than they can be in their everyday life. The anonymity gives us the freedom to be anybody we want, posses any identity we please. It becomes a kind of wish fulfillment for an alternate life for many.
The major advantage I believe of having a virtual friend with whom you can have a heart to heart conversation is the fact that the person opposite to you does not come with a prior bias which is an inseparable part of real time friendships. For most of our friends have already formed their opinions and judgments about us and the way how we behave. While this is an advantage as it gives a feeling of familiarity but then there are certain situations where one would want a completely unbiased view, a neutral perspective. It is here that virtual friends seem to be better as they are people who are completely new and have not yet formed any ideas about you and most often are more sympathetic and patient. By that I do not mean that real friends do not posses such qualities but in certain cases familiarity with a person brings with it a colored vision which can make us not reveal ourselves completely fearing judgment and being misunderstood.
While anonymity helps us be more than we dare be in real life, it also comes with a set of drawbacks. Human interactions are not just based on written messages; body language and voices and their tones play a major role in these conversations which are completely absent in virtual chat box friendships. Moreover, with the anonymity comes another danger, that of the mysterious unknown. People , however familiar and close they might get to their virtual friend should always abstain from revealing too much about themselves and providing personal information which could lead to identification, until or unless they are very sure about the person’s authenticity from a common acquaintance.
From personal experience, I can say that I have a lot of virtual friends who are very dear to me, as much as my real life friends are, people with whom I connect on a very deep level which is sometimes not possible with friends I have known for years. The best part of those friendships is that I have become very good friends with people who I have nothing in common with, people with whom I might never have crossed paths in life and become friends. Things get even better when these online relationships can be taken a step further by transforming them into real life friendships.