I’m sick and tired of hearing “you can’t really know someone via the internet, you need to meet them in real life”, there are so many things wrong with that that I don’t even know where to start with.
First of all, no matter what Facebook calls them, social networks are not there to make friends. Sharing cat videos on social networks is not a ‘virtual friendship’, not because of the ‘virtual’ part but because it’s not a friendship; if listening to what someone is broadcasting is a friendship, then we’re all friends with everyone we’ve ever seen on TV. So stop saying that you can’t know someone online when you really mean you can’t know someone by following them randomly on Facebook.
To make friends or, at least, to relate to someone there needs to be a two-way interaction; you need to go where people talk and interact. In the past that was IRC, Usenet, MUDs and email groups; nowadays it’s mostly forums and MMOGs.
Sure, you’re not promised a meaningful friendship, or one that will last after you log off from the game for the last time, but hey, it’s not that different from a ‘real life’ friendship after all.
Then, who ever said that relations over the internet are less real than face to face ones? I’ve met many of my friends over the internet and, sure, I’ve met many of them offline afterwards; but there are people I only know online, either because of geographical distance (hello America!) or because we’re simply not that close, that I do consider to be real friends or, at least, acquaintances. These are people with whom I’ve shared laughs and serious moments, I’ve argued with, built stuff together with, played together, created communities.
On the other side, there’s people I’ve met offline every day for the last three years who don’t know what my hobbies are, or who insult me constantly without ever realizing, or who don’t even know my *name*. And yet, my relation with them is supposed to be more real simply because we meet face to face.
Third, and sorry if this hurts some ‘real life’-ers feelings, some guys just aren’t cut to make friends online. Hey, that’s good. I can’t make friends at parties, though that’s supposedly how you’re supposed to meet people in the real world. Maybe we can share notes. Just don’t extend you lack of social skills to the rest of the world.