THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
If only....
The same river a second time

Of friendship, trust and the internet

The internet - like life itself - is wonderful, dangerous and bound to end badly. The German language has a precise way of categorising friendships. Only a real (will be there at your funeral even if it rains) friend qualifies as a "freund." Others may be merely a "geschäftsfreund" or "sportfreund" (someone you do business or play sports with).

We certainly need a way in English to distinguish real friends from "blog friends," "Facebook friends," "LinkedIn" or "Second Life" friends. English-speakers have always been too casual about conferring the great honour of "friendship" on each other and in consequence often don't know who their real friends are. The confusion that causes and the time is wastes is tragic.

We can meet the likeminded far more readily in cyberspace than "meatspace", which is wonderful. It's particularly so if you happen to belong to an endangered minority, like libertarians or those who care about grammar! But there are many pitfalls along the virtual road.

Often it seems that people (especially shy people) get carried away with the unrestricted possibilities of online life, but real friendships need time to mature wherever they are formed. And cyberspace is a particularly dangerous place to form them. 80% of human communication is non-verbal. No matter how slick your use of smiley faces and internet acronyms, you are stuck with the other 20% online

Cyberspace is wonderful because you meet people whose paths would never have crossed yours in real life. You can get to know and exchange your thoughts with a much wider range of people than you would normally meet. Worryingly, you can also end up in the virtual company of people you find - too late - you would have crossed many a wide street to avoid.

I have misjudged many people in my life - to my cost and sometimes to theirs. I have so often misplaced my trust that it becomes difficult as I get older to keep trusting. Yet little of value can be achieved in this life alone. And nothing of value can be achieved with others without trust. So I keep trying and keep advising others - however difficult it must sometimes seem - to do the same.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.



i really dont believe in the online friendship concept its full falsified images and an oquage medium to select friends.
Nevertheless, friendship is the most beautiful relation to be goes sum good


Friendship online can be quite real if it has been going for a long time. Equally, when a so-called friend turns out to have done the dirty on you without your knowledge,even if it is online, it can hurt just as much as if that person was beside you in real life.

Letters From A Tory

Unfortunately if trust is the key, our political system is in serious trouble.

Rob Farrington

I just don't understand the whole Facebook/Bebo/Myspace thing. And don't even get me started on Twitter...

I HAVE formed close relationships on the internet, including meeting my fiance - so I can confirm that there ARE honest people out there who are exactly who and what they say they are.

That was on a forum where we shared mutual interests, and ended up being close friends before admitting that we'd fallen for each other. She's American and I've been over there three times, and we're now madly in love, and engaged to be married.

I know that I was lucky, though - I'm sorry that you seem to have had a worse experience.

Colin Campbell

Wise words Tom. I am surprised how hurtful some internet interactions can be for the people involved and the observers. All the things that were set out in the beginning torn down by egos and anger among other things.


Russian, so Russian!


I would like to comment ..but I'm not sure your my type

The comments to this entry are closed.