Do friends on the internet matter?

Do friends on the internet matter? Are they even friends if you only know them on the internet? Well, I can tell you right off the bat that of course friends you can actually talk to in real life tend to automatically feel a lot more meaningful and genuine because you have the opportunity to see who they actually are right then and there. With friends on the internet however, it's obviously much easier to hide who you really are, and honestly I think that's okay. You should always have the right to remain anonymous. However, this becomes a problem if you have the expectation to have closer and more meaningful connections with someone on the internet. While it may not require nearly as much commitment as something like dating or marriage, friendship still generally has an expectation of giving up a certain degree of your time and even anonymity. Your interests, jokes, stylometry, and habits will be remembered by those you speak to regardless of whether you're using a mass surveillance city slicker messenger like Discord, or a decentralized wild west open standard like XMPP. Obviously the former makes things even worse, but this is still an issue regardless of where you go.

You have a couple of options here. You could ditch everything, go under a new alias, and make sure to mask your stylometry so nobody will know it's you and/or you can make sure to live by a quality over quantity principle with the friends you talk to (or you could always be a lone wolf if that's your thing). If you're lonely, that is easier said than done because you will likely become desperate if you're not careful and end up being the kind of person who will take whatever they can get, only for you to end up with people who will throw you away, or even end up with people you'll want to get away from.

Many will probably tell you there is no such thing as having an internet friend, while others will talk about kind people they talk to online every day. Personally, I'm not against the idea of having friends on the internet and don't think it's as bad of a concept as most parents would have you believe. However, I do think you have to be very careful if you friend anyone online. I'm not here to be a fear mongering boomer that tells you "internet friend bad" for the 1000th time, I'm here to tell you to choose your friends wisely.

Before I end this post, there is one more thing I'd like to talk about. This has less to do with individual friends and more with groups. The internet friend issue becomes more complex when more people are added in the equation and put together because multiple people potentially means multiple clashing philosophies and ethics. This doesn't always happen, but when it does, it can lead to conflict, especially if said group contains the type of people who are more defensive and high maintenance. You're likely going to have to deal with arguments no matter who you're around, but to mitigate this issue, start by lurking and seeing how certain communities act before you actually participate. What you may quickly discover is that the communities that tend to be less toxic are the communities that follow this criteria.

After lots of experience with both of these types of groups, I can confirm the acquaintance approach tends to be more successful. That doesn't you mean you have to go with that approach. Do whatever works for you, but whatever you do, don't get too attached.