We’re all used to the buddy list, that mysterious thing full of avatars and names that populates the user interface of our gaming machine of choice. From the Wii to Steam to XBL and PSN, we’ve gone through the process of adding names to that list, connecting with other users in the vastness of cyberspace in order to play our silly video games. Many of these systems refer to these connections as friends, but is that always the case?
A recent Kotaku post titled Are Your Online Friends Really Your Friends got my brain fired up on this subject, and I think it’s a cool question for discussion. I’m not sure how many of you have developed friendships with online buddies before, but I have done this quite a few times over the years. In fact, I have friends from a forum I used to go to 10 years ago that I still actively communicate with through Facebook and IM, and I have even met a handful of them.
There are many people that I know who would not view these as actual friendships, but I don’t think being face-to-face with somebody is a requirement for getting to know them in a way that you can call them a legit friend. It goes both ways, too. I think you can just as easily really know somebody you’ve never seen just as easily as you can not know somebody you see everyday.
In an age where more of our interactions with people are happening online, I think it’s going to become more and more common for people’s online friends to increase. I just view it as people that you would be friends with it if you lived close to each other, you just do it over a distance. I know that XBL is how I kept up with many of my friends from college, so how is it any different if you’ve never officially met the person?
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this topic? Can online friends be real friends? Go!