Most of us have at least a few "friends" who we've never met in real life -- the one who friended us after seeing the comment we left on a mutual friend's photo; the daughter of our mom's co-worker who e-mailed us for career advice ages ago and who still sometimes forwards "Arrested Development" links.

Turns out this type of friendship is becoming more common. A new TNS Global survey of over 27,000 people found that folks are increasingly connecting with others online for platonic purposes.

Participants from China said that of all their relationships, about 80 percent are with online-only friends (people they've never met), while U.K. respondents said about 25 percent of their friends are online-only. Americans are on the low end of the spectrum, saying that online-only acquaintances make up 20 percent of their pals.

What's more surprising is that 61 percent have met their Web friends face-to-face. A whopping 76 percent of Germans have admitted to crossing over from cyberspace to the real world. France, Sweden, Denmark and Norway round out the top five populations most likely to meet their buddies in real life. (56 percent of Americans have met someone they first met online.)

Click here to read how people befriend their online friends -- and why others don't trust them.

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Over the past 10 years, Ontario native Stefanie, 23, has formed her own circle of Web friends. Stefanie remembers a girl she befriended in a chat room -- after learning that they lived close to one another and had plenty in common, they ended up meeting ("For pancakes and squirrel watching," says Stefanie).

Stefanie still continues to meet new people online from time to time. "If it wasn't for the Internet, I'd never have met some of the best people in my life," she says. She also credits these relationships with helping her get over her shyness. "What I learned by interacting on the Internet I practiced in person and now feel content to be myself and be comfortable with it."

Do You Really Know Your Friends?
Many Web socialites befriend their acquaintances on social networking sites. Over 50 percent of people worldwide participate in such sites, including Friendster, Facebook and Second Life. (Koreans are the most likely to belong to more than one, btw, with each person belonging to an average of four different sites.)

But despite their multitude of friends, 37 percent of people worldwide have admitted to not being sure about the "true identity" of the people they meet online. China and the U.S. had the strongest negative views about this and about social networking sites -- deeming them dangerous or a waste of time.

Tell us: Do you have "Web-only" friends? Have you ever met someone in person who you initially met on the Internet?

Also on Lemondrop:
Check out these totally cool knitting projects you can do when you get offline.


Kooky Knitting Projects

    Elephant gun Meet "Gun Shy," created by Anna at Mochimochi (FYI: "mochi" is a Japanese ice cream!). Don't worry, this cute pachydermal plush doesn't really want to shoot anyone.

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    Toilet paper We're not sure why this remnant on the roll is so sad...or why anyone would want a knit swath of TP. But it sure is cute, right?

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    Fractured femurs Let's just hope these are intended as a dog chew toy...or a special gift for a huge fan of "Bones."

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    Horned beetle A classic stuffed animal shaped like (what else?!) the bug called kabuto mushi. The artist named him Simon and is super glad she finally has an insect around her NYC apartment that she isn't afraid of.

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    Mario scarf There's a blog dedicated to this "extreme-geek" knitting project of creating an entire tapestry of the first level of the Nintendo game Mario.

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    Princess Leia hat Created by Ansley of the Blue Arts blog, this design is perfect for the woman looking to both stay warm in winter and appease her nerd boyfriend's "Star Wars" fetish.

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    Dust bunnies Mochimochi Land is the brainchild of New York knitter Anna Hrachovec, who says she draws her inspiration from Japanese culture. Maybe that explains her desire to cute-ify a household mess and put instructions up for others on her site.

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    Vibrator cozy It takes care of you, sure, but even your vibrator can get lonely sometimes. That's why it has this Black Flag sweater to snuggle up to. Because when we think Black Flag, we think cozy...don't you?

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    Knitted food There's no shortage of yarn delicacies on Etsy, but this plate of a carrot and tangerine takes the cake. Did the artist only have two colors of yarn? Or is this just a balanced meal?

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