Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Are internet friends a symptom of a person hiding from life?

Asked by wundayatta (58727points) April 12th, 2010
20 responses
“Great Question” (6points)

I have all these friends from the internet who I’ve never met in person. Some addiction counselors say that addictions are used to keep us from feeling our feelings. Those feelings are so painful that we will do anything not to have to feel them. One way of running away is by establishing fantasy relationships. Addiction folks might say these virtual relationships get in the way of true intimacy.

Do virtual friends count as healthy friendships? Or are they a sign that someone is running away from their real life and their real feelings? Many people are lonely and have low self-esteem, and they can find friendship online. But is that healthy? Or is it a kind of drug that alleviates their pain without actually dealing with the real problem?

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MrItty's avatar

Having internet friends isn’t. Not having real-life friends is. There’s no reason you can’t have both.

susanc's avatar

Wunda, it makes me smile a little to imagine all of us answering this question objectively. Here we all are.
I love my fluther relationships. Some of them have been life-saving, and fluther as a community has taught me, shored me up, made me laugh, kept me from feeling like I was the only one who didn’t know what to do about lots & lots of things. When I talk with my “real” friends, I often quote people I “know”
from here.
Does it alleviate my pain? Yes. Does it protect me from dealing with real people? Nah.
Is this a Discussion question or are you worried? : )

jeanmay's avatar

I agree with @MrItty. It’s all about a balance. I try to make sure I cultivate friendships both in the real world and online.

sleepdoc's avatar

I asked a similar question to this. Only I phrased it in the auspice of a blog question. I think if you are substituting the chance to have real life friends to foster online relationships you are on the road to a problem. But it seemed that those who answered thought otherwise.

janbb's avatar

@susanc You are such a smart “fake” friend!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t get why people separate the internet from ‘real life’ – this is real life as much as anything else is – just because you can’t see people face to face doesn’t mean you can’t be friends and sometimes distance makes it impossible but the internet brings you close.

PacificToast's avatar

If you’re addicted, I think it’s unhealthy, but if you socialize in both circles internet and IRL nearly equally, then it’s just another way to meet people and have intelligent conversations.

Blackberry's avatar

I think it is amazing and awe-inspiring how we are all strangers, yet we can converse on the internet as if we have known each other for years. Having internet friends is not a bad thing at all, of course like the other answers said, you just can’t reject all outside relations.

We are humans, and humans communicate with each other because we are of the same species, essentially, we are a family, of course we are going to comminicate in any way possible.

cak's avatar

If this is the only source of friendship for a person, or they truly neglect “living” their life, yes – this is a problem. However, if one balances the two, sticks their head outdoors or lets say into another room and really lives life, it’s fine.

I’ve had times when I’ve been so bedridden that the internet was more of a lifeline for me. I had “real” friends, too; however, I didn’t always want them coming around and looking at me with those pitiful looks.

Just like everything else in life, there has to be a balance to the things you do.

cak (15863points)“Great Answer” (5points)
phoebusg's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir great answer, it is all connected.

essieness's avatar

I’ve thought about this a lot as well because I’ve cultivated some great, lasting friendships online, specifically through Fluther. Yes, I think it’s strange that I consider these people my friends. But the fact is, I consider them my friends. Just because we haven’t met IRL doesn’t lessen their value or impact on my life. I have a habit of coming to Fluther when I need help solving very personal issues. I do that because I feel safe here; I will get honest, forthright opinions and sincere advice. Isn’t that as valuable or more valuable than a face to face conversation?

That said, I do think if there is a lack of balance between virtual and real life friendships, there might be a problem. Or you might life in the sticks.

But no, I don’t think internet friends are a symptom of a person hiding from life.

susanc's avatar

Must return to this question to join @cak in saying that there have been times when I wanted to be in contact with other minds but did not want pity. And hey hey, you don’t get much pity here.
It’s a joy. True.

wundayatta's avatar

What made me think of this is stuff I’m learning in the love addiction group. In that group, a lot of people use the internet as a way of getting involved in fantasy, which they deem to be unhealthy. It’s a way of avoiding true intimacy, apparently.

So it makes me wonder whether there’s something inherently unhealthy about internet relationships, and we are all in denial of it. Frankly, I think that’s ridiculous, but then, I’m biased. I don’t want to be an internet addict. I don’t want to think my relationships with people here are unhealthy. But as @susanc suggested, it is quite ironic to ask a bunch of people invested in the behavior to actually look at it critically.

I guess I think there are both healthy and unhealthy internet relationships. I’m not sure I know what the difference it, though. Maybe you guys could discuss that, and present me with a report by, say, 0800 tomorrow? ;-)

PandoraBoxx's avatar

If I could find 47 people in RL who were up and willing to talk at 10:45 pm. I probably wouldn’t be on here.

plethora's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I agree with you 100%....:) Great answer

ParaParaYukiko's avatar

I think the only instances where an Internet friend is a “fantasy relationship” is when you’re in an internet-based “fantasy” environment. That can mean a few things: you meet the person on a roleplaying site or something where you actually pretend to be someone else, or you deliberately avoid talking about your problems with people you meet on the internet, giving the impression that you’re perfectly fine. Otherwise, internet friends are not that different from real-life friends. Some of my closest friends in the past have been internet-based, but nothing really replaces having a friend who can literally sit next to you and give you a hug whenever you may want one. :)

Cruiser's avatar

This is the greatest question I have ever encountered here and @susanc you made me smile with “it makes me smile a little to imagine all of us answering this question objectively.” So true…I love all the answers! ;)

Rangie's avatar

No, I don’t think internet friends are hiding from life at all. In fact I think they are widening their horizons. I have noticed the internet friends, that are for lack of a better word, arms length friends, are more likely to be straight forward honest with you. Whereas, your face to face friends are more likely to coat their answers to you for fear of hurting your feelings. Both types of friends are good to have. Some friends you can go to with certain kinds of issues, that you couldn’t with another.

Ludy's avatar

@sleepdoc, yeah, I remeber that question : blogs, do they create isolation? or something like that right?

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