In today’s society, more and more “personal” interaction takes place from one side of a glowing screen. Sometimes it’s a computer, sometimes a phone or a tablet. Electronic media provide a more convenient and less time consuming method for communication than face-to-face interaction. Forming relationships over the internet, however, continues to be a trend filled with controversy.
Kejuan Jones, junior earth science and environmental sustainability major at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, has developed relationships with people over the internet for more than five years. He believes friendships he forms through technology are just like real life friends. Jones trusts he can make the same bonds with people over the internet as he can with people who he interacts with daily.
“In the growing age of communication becoming more technical it’s not that outlandish to have friends you aren’t physically with,” Jones said. “With Skype you can voice chat and video chat so it is possible to see and hear them.”
A Kaiser Family Foundation study reports children between 8 and 17 spend more than 7.5 hours on social media websites daily. Today, 95 percent of teenagers use the internet daily and it is becoming prevalent in everyone’s lives. Spending time online allows the user to find others with similar interest that bud into friendships.
“I feel less pressure when I talk to people on the internet than my real life friends,” Rachel Lauve, freshman English education major at Ball State University said.
Lauve believes there is less judgment in internet relationships because you have not known the person from a young age. Instead your friendship is based upon your shared interests. Her online friends are less judgmental than her real life friends.
Cole Watson, freshman computer sciences major at MU, has been playing computer games like “World of Warcraft” for eight years. Through these games and forums he has made lasting friendships, which he considers to be just like his physical friendships. Watson took a trip from Missouri to Oregon to meet people he “met” through the internet where his online friends then became his real life friends. The people on this trip also donated funds to purchase him a better computer so he could play games with them more often.
“I was able to meet some of my internet friends,” Watson said. “It was a great experience. I got to make my internet friends into real life friends.”
FriWatson said he never feared any of the gamers were not who they claimed. Jones, Lauve and Watson do not mind that they miss physical contact with people they interact with on the internet. They all believe Skype and Facebook allow them to build relationships like ones the ones in the real world.
Caution should be taken when meeting others online. The television series “Catfish” illustrates what could go wrong with online relationships. It is easy for a person to pretend to be someone else. A study done by Pew reports 49 percent of teen internet users have lied about their age. Always proceed carefully when dealing with others online. Jones said a safe way to interact with someone is through Skype. Skype allows voice and video chat, which lets you bond with someone without having to be in the same location.
“I would define friendship as being able to talk to someone with ease and wanting to talk to them, and wanting to share things with them,” Lauve said.
Friendship definitions vary but Lauve, Jones and Watson all believe people who have become their friends over the internet are lifelong friends. They fit their ideas of friendship despite not having met in person. Modern technology has given internet users the ability to meet people they would not have known before the digital era. Watson would not have had the opportunity to travel to Oregon or have his new laptop without internet friendships.
“The new advances in social media have allowed us to have friends we have never met before, but still communicate with them as if they are in the same room,” Jones said. “This enables us to still form bonds and share experiences with one another. It may seem odd now, but in the future it may not be all that uncommon.”
With increasing popularity of smartphones and laptops, internet friends are now able to share experiences they would have never been able to before. Now, internet friendships may just be called friendships.