Most friends I’ve talked with make the distinction between an online friendship and a “real friendship.” They believe that only an offline friendship qualifies as a legitimate, meaningful relationship.
They recognize online friendships may exist, but assume they ultimately lead to a “true” offline friendship in the physical world. They’re a means to an end.
I disagree. I believe that online and offline friendships are not only inherently different, but should be respected as such. Even if we’re talking about the same person. An online friendship does not always to translate to the same relationship offline, and vice versa. Some friendships are just better offline, some are better online. Some of them are exactly the same offline as they are online. And some wonderful online friendships just don’t need to be forced into the physical realm, even if conventional wisdom may suggest otherwise.
Likewise, a friend with whom you have great chemistry in “real life” may not be so compatible with you online. I have friendships where the vibe in person is amazing – we get along and it’s fun – but as soon as we take a conversation online (text messaging, for example) our relationship is full of misunderstandings and frustrations.
A couple of my longest and closest friendships are online. In many cases, we’ve never met in person. These friendships function so well that there is just no reason to introduce them into real life, especially if both parties agree on it or even lack the interest in doing so.
Some might argue that intimacy cannot exist in the same way for online friends due to the lack of body language, for example, and that may be true. Online friendships are a different kind of relationship. But that doesn't necessarily make them lower in quality than offline friendships.
Friendships can exist on various levels and in various worlds. An online friendship might not lead to meeting in the “real world,” but that doesn’t make it less real.