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?

How Does Media Manipulate You?

It is easy to imagine how someone you disagree with might be manipulated by the media they consume. But how does your media manipulate you?

Frequently, I see people referred to as sheep. The implication is that they blindly follow whatever they hear. The person using the word “sheep”, however, would never fall for such obvious tricks. Or so they believe.


Related: Listen to the Intellectual Roundtable podcast where Michael and Lee discuss the question, ‘How much of our thoughts are our own?’ Stay tuned for a bonus question, ‘How much is enough?’


In reality, all news, opinion, and entertainment programs use many methods to get you to believe what they want you to believe. That might include word choice, music, on-screen text, sharing only one side of an argument, or even outright lies.

While it is easy to notice these flaws in the media outlets that don’t share your worldview, it is much harder to be critical of the media — newspaper articles, cable news, web sites, and so on — that you consume on a regular basis, and that you agree with.


Related: Here is a podcast episode with the question, ‘What beliefs do you have that might be wrong?’ We also discuss a second question, ‘What makes a place feel like home?’


Are you familiar with the rhetorical methods that are used to persuade? Do you recognize some of the behaviors that you condemn in others in your own choice of news? Can you recognize, in what you read or watch, an agenda being driven, even if you agree with that agenda? How does media manipulate you?

Related questions: How much of our thoughts are our own? How does your vocabulary influence how you think? What beliefs do you have that might be wrong? What deserves your attention?

Desktop, Laptop, Or Smartphone?

For your computing needs, what is your preferred system: a desktop computer, a laptop, or a smartphone? Or is it something else?

Share why if you wish.

Desktop, Laptop, Or Smartphone?

Twitter Or Facebook?

For your social media needs, do you prefer to use Twitter or Facebook? What are the pros and cons of each? Is your favorite some other platform?

Share why if you wish.

Twitter Or Facebook?

What Voices Are You Listening To?

The political divide in this country is at an extreme. There are many reasons for this, for example gerrymandering, self-selection, and social media. But one of the primary reasons has to do with the fact that the voices that we hear on a day-to-day basis are very similar to our own.

If you happen to have an opinion on some topic, and you hear that same opinion echoed back at you from your TV set, from your Twitter feed, or from discussions with your friends, that opinion is reinforced.

Conversely, if you are often confronted with opinions that differ from your own, it may cause you to reevaluate your stance, or at least to do some research to back up your viewpoint.

Listening to others can also make you a more empathic person. By hearing what someone else has experienced, or what they are afraid of, or excited about, you learn to put yourself in another’s shoes.

A different religion, political party, skin color, age, socioeconomic status — all people have stories to tell that can help define our commonalities as human beings. A willingness to consider other sides can also help to smooth over disagreements.

Sometimes it can be difficult to recruit different voices to your own social circle. It’s relatively easy to find like-minded people among your friends, family, job, and hobbies. Meeting and forming social bonds with someone different from you is not easy.

Do you have friends that don’t look, pray, or love like you? Do you read books written from viewpoints other than your own? Or watch movies or TV shows with leads that aren’t like you? What voices are you listening to?

Related questions: Who hears your voice? How can we become better listeners? What do we have in common? Why are we so antagonistic?