I've heard "experts" say that they aren't, that people need to get off the computers and get out in the real world and make real friends. I think that's a bunch of BS, with social media networks like facebook and twitter, they have made the world a much smaller place. I have friends all over the world because of twitter and facebook and other online forums.
So what defines someone as a friend; someone who is there to listen, to chat with, to hangout with and keep you company, someone who can give you advice, make you laugh and brighten your day. It's true you may not have physical contact with this person but you do have emotional contact with this person.
Some people who live in smaller town don't have the luxury of finding like minded people and turn to the internet and social media groups for that. I couldn't imagine being gay and a geek and living in a small town.
It's funny as some people distinguish between "real" life friends and online friends, I do not. To me they are all "just" my friends. I have close friends who live near me and I have close friends who live 1000's of miles away and never met in person. I don't love them any differently, they are there for me when I need them most.
Now I would by lying if I said I didn't wish that some of them lived near me so we could physically hang out but just because they don't it doesn't mean I love them any less. It is funny though.. because the only way for us to communicate is over the internet and I tend to talk with my online friends more then my friends that live near by me. I don't know why that is, we're all super busy in our real lives and we do get to see each other once in a while but those friends who live near by we just don't talk that much over the net.
Online friends and social media groups can make you feel amazing. Several things happened to me recently, I started working out and blogging about my progress, the support I have gotten from those who comment on my blog has been amazing and it continue to inspire me. I turned 40 last month and I got over 150 facebook Happy Birthdays and over 200 Happy Birthday tweets from all my tweeter friends. Talk about feeling loved and appreciated. And again with National "coming out" day last week, I got so many encouraging tweets and facebook comments it was awesome. Then recently with getting my new job.. the barrage of support from my twitter and facebook friends was truly amazing. I've never felt so much love and support from people who I have never actually met in person but we have bonded over one thing or another online.
I have actually gotten to meet some of my online friends at comic con or visiting them on vacation and it's amazing how you instantly just click with that person. There is no awkward "getting to know that person" period, as you have been friends online and have chatted over time. It's like you've known each other all your lives.
The past few years have been some of the best of my life and it's because of all the fantastic online friends that I have made. So when people say that online friendships are not "real" friends, tell them to go f**k off as I have some of the best "online" friends in the world.