A: The internet is the backbone of today’s society. We use it for everything: shopping, researching, completing schoolwork, and even forming relationships? In today’s digital age, we spend lots of our time online, so much so that we begin to feel like we’re friends with the people we converse with. After playing hours worth of video games and talking with someone online, it’s easy to feel like they’re your friend. But can you really say you’re friends with someone you only know online?
J: Friendship is 100% subjective. A friend could be someone who you’ve been familiar with for years, a person you just met, or even a disembodied voice calling to you through a screen. In our increasingly digitized world, would it not be safe to assume that friendships can form online as well?
A: Part of my problem with friendships / relationships that solely live online is their unreliability. You really don’t know who’s behind that screen. Your Xbox Live “friend” who you think is your age may turn out to be a 50 year old man. Or the cute girl you’re talking to on a dating app— how do you know that’s actually her? For all you know it could be a grown man or a different girl posing as someone more attractive and successful than they truly are. Along with potential disappointment in your “friend’s” true identity, it’s also dangerous, especially if you ever want to meet them in real life.
J: So, you think an online person’s age, gender, and physical traits should matter when considering whether or not to befriend them online? Well, in the real world, that’s called discrimination—but it’s okay to do that as long as you can’t see them face-to-face, right? It shouldn’t matter who or what your gaming buddy is in real life, because online, he’s just your friend. You face virtual challenges together, share the feelings of victory and defeat together, and, most importantly, escape reality together. Everyone’s a stranger until you take the time to know them, so why not take a leap of faith and forge some virtual friendships?
A: Even if you video chat with these “friends,” you still don’t know them. They share the parts of their life that they want, and there’s no telling the difference between their true self and their online persona. Just like on social media, they’re showing you what they want you to see. Their words are carefully curated to project the person they want to be. There’s no telling what kind of person they are offline.
J: How is that any different than the way humans treat one another in person? You wouldn’t introduce yourself to your new classmate as an insecure weirdo, so why would you do so to a girl you just matched with on Tinder? Lately, the majority of people focus on one concept: present the most perfect version of yourself as possible. People show up to dinner in unnecessarily opulent clothes, driving ludicrously flashy cars, and order the most expensive thing on the menu, and for what? All to prove the point that they are the most perfect people they can be. How is that any different than an online chat friend failing to reveal his/her weight, height, or social status? Perception is reality, and so why can’t your friend be a person you wouldn’t be embarrassed to talk to?
A: I’ll admit online relationships aren’t all bad. It’s easy to find people with similar interests or problems— all it takes is a few clicks before you see a whole community just like you. Finding and talking to people online is fine, but ultimately you’ve got to have friends in the real world. You can’t live your life in some made up persona you’ve created for yourself.
J: Everyone—online or offline—is living as a made up persona. The connections you make with people online shouldn’t be belittled simply because you can’t reach out and touch the person you’re speaking to. Every relationship has the potential to blossom into a friendship so long as you give it the chance. While I’ll admit you can’t spend your whole life compiling acquaintances online, the reality of said acquaintances should not be understated. Virtual reality is a part of reality, and so are the friendships you create there.