Can An Internet Friend Be A True Companion?

As we spend more time online, we are bound to make friends there. But can an Internet friend be as good a friend — or even better — as one you meet in person?

In some ways, it makes sense that you could find a connection with someone online. After all, without geography limiting the people you can interact with, you are bound to meet people that share your interests — like an obscure band, a niche artist, or a cult movie — that you might not meet otherwise.

In addition, we have a multitude of ways to communicate over long distances. Everything from hand-written letters to phone calls, from text messages to video conferencing. As a result, if the motivation to stay in touch with someone exists, there are several different ways to do it.


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How can we encourage debate?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’


However, each one of us has a physical presence. We evolved to be attuned to the physical presence of someone else. This might include unspoken communication like body language, pheromones, and body heat. There is something about the touch of another human being that produces a chemical reaction inside your body. And it is not just limited to intimacy.

So what do you think? Can a friendly relationship between two people be sustained solely through e-mail messages, Zoom calls, and social media posts? Or is a true, deep, thoughtful friendship dependent on physical proximity? Can an Internet friend be a true companion?

Related questions: What makes a friendship? What do you get out of social media? How can we engage in meaningful conversation? What makes a community?

Global Or Local?

As the saying goes, “Think globally, act locally.” Is one more necessary than the other? Do you like global or local better?

Share why if you wish.

Global Or Local?

What Is Your Favorite Shared Experience?

Humans are a social species. We like to connect with other humans, to share ideas and experiences. A shared experience, like a movie or a concert, is more enjoyable than the same activity done in isolation.

As such, things we can do together have a special place in our psyches. We remember where we were when a impactful moment happens, one that everyone knows. The moon landing. 9/11. The space shuttle Challenger explosion.

Often these events can be traumatic, like the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. or JFK. But they can also be a cultural event, like the final episode of a TV show like M*A*S*H or Seinfeld. Or a movie like The Avengers, or a sporting event like the Super Bowl.

Personally, I don’t know much about Game of Thrones. I’ve never read any of the books or seen any of the TV shows. But I felt a sense of loss as the final few episodes aired recently.

The shows aren’t going anywhere. Now that they are all done, I can binge watch the whole thing any time I want. But the communal feeling that viewers had, knowing that a large percentage of society was paying attention, cannot be recaptured.

I wish I had been part of a viewing party. Or been able to talk to friends or co-workers about what shocking thing happened last night. Or been able to appreciate the late night talk show jokes, or read any of the seemingly endless blogs or magazine articles dissecting every minor detail of each of the last few episodes.

Those moments, of a shared community, makes us feel like we are part of more than just our tiny selves.

When have you felt a part of a cultural moment? What is your favorite shared experience?

Related questions: What is your favorite experience? Where do shared ideas exist? Why do we feel the need to belong? What do we have in common? What makes a community?