It wasn't too long ago that admitting you had "online friends" lumped you in the same social group as porn fiends and friendless cat ladies. And yet now we do business, network, date and maintain friendships online without a second thought.
But are we spending our lives happily typing away to the detriment of our in-person relationships?
The New York Times
says yes (in their latest Oh-kids-today! piece) -- half of American teenagers send 50 or more text messages a day, and two-thirds of the texters said they were more likely to use their cell phones to text friends than to call them. Fifty-four percent text friends once a day, but only 33 percent said they actually talk to these friends face-to-face with regularity.
Seeing all of your friends on a daily basis seems a little much -- after all, when are we supposed to catch up on our "Law and Order"? -- but there's a difference between keeping in touch with "real-life" friends via text/IMing and carrying on full-on friendships without ever bothering to take it offline.
Do you have any online friendships or relationships that never see the light of day? We asked around and, ironically, most of the people who answered were our online-only friends. Point taken. Here's what they had to say:
"I was having a situation kind of like that with a guy. We only texted each other back and forth and met off of a dating website. Getting to know each other on a real level was hard because he existed as a series of characters and emoticons. I felt like he just didn't know how to talk to me in person because when we finally did meet up, he was terrible expressing his feelings about something and couldn't make direct eye contact. I never called him back." -- Amanda
"I have an email/tweet pal in Ohio. We 'met' via Twitter like six months ago. Then we connected on email, Facebook, and Stumbleupon! We talk at least a few times a week now, and I've even sent her little care packages. If she was ever in NYC I'd totally hang out with her!" -- Bryce
"I chat regularly with a guy who found me via my blog. He's an iPhone app developer, and so we talk tech industry stuff pretty frequently, but the one time we actually did get together was completely awkward. We'd been chatting since the fall of 2008 and met one time in January of 2009. He was just kind of socially awkward in person -- the conversation was kind of forced, and he asked me weird questions like we were on an interview or first date. We still chat pretty much as often as we used to, but we just avoid the all talk of meeting up again, even though we live pretty close to each other." -- Teresa
"I did an online internship way back in the day, and made friends with a girl who lived in Michigan, and we emailed jokes like every day and she told me about her boyfriend problems, etc, and we were even text buddies -- but she's visited New York multiple times and we've just never managed to get together ... I think it would almost be super awkward if we did. But I'd call her my friend, even though we've never met?" -- Julie
"I have a friend who I rarely see but talk to very often on IM and Facebook. The funny thing is we worked together and waved at each other in the hallways, but we're always way more talkative with each other online. We talk about anything from her boyfriend to '80s music. We've never made plans to hang out, but we did mingle at an office party for like five minutes! I'm socially retarded so it's much easier to talk to her and not be nervous online." -- Monica
"I actually do have a relationship like that with one of my best friends. We rarely see each other because of our work schedules but we are in daily communication, mostly via text. If it weren't for our Blackberrys, Facebook and Twitter we'd never know what the other was up to! We see each other a few times a year, mostly on birthdays and special occasions. Yet, because we do stay in touch via text we always know what is going on in our lives. So, on the rare occasion we do see each other, it's never awkward at all!" -- Martha
"I keep in touch with a lot of people I met at conferences and with Twitter writer friends who I've never actually met with in real life." -- Stacy