Digital Friendships, Digital Community

To say that the internet has changed the way that we live would certainly be an understatement. In particular I was thinking about how the social functions of the internet--social networking, blogging, chat rooms, gaming, online-dating, etc--are changing the ways that people think about friendship and community. For some people, the internet simply serves as an "extention" to their pre-existing relationships; meaning, the internet allows them to keep up with family and friends that they have that are outside of the www. Although the internet is useful for them, it isn't the primary place where they experience friendship or community. Yet, for others, the world of the internet has become their community. They may actually put forth effort and time into these "digital friendships" than their flesh-and-blood relationships. Many of their "friends" are made up of people that they have never met face-to-face. So, what makes this type of "digital community" so attractive to people? Here two reasons that came to mind.

First, digital communities allow people to put their best foot forward. In these communities, it is much easier for people to hide the parts of their lives that they do not want others to see. Of course, this can happen in flesh-and-blood relationships, but it is far easier to do this on the internet because people are less likely to catch you when you have your guard down. For example, you can chose to post only the pictures that make you look beautiful, not the ones that make you look overweight or unattractive. If you're in a bad mood, you don't have to "log on" and chat with anyone.

Second, digital friendships are much easier to leave behind when they get messy. If someone irritates you in a chat room, you can say what you want and never return. If someone begins to annoy you on Facebook, you can delete them as your friend.

So, what's my point? I certainly do not object to participating in the various social functions available through the internet. My concern comes when these "digital communities" essentially replace flesh-and-blood relationships. In many ways, the internet can de-personalize our relationships; meaning, the internet doesn't allow others to recognize changes in our moods, see our facial expressions, hear the tone of our voices, or read our body language.We need friends that can know us--truly know us.

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