Do Virtual Friendships Still Have Value?

My husband sometimes teases me that my best friend lives 3000 miles away, and I’ve only met her once in person.

I can’t argue with him. I met my friend on a pregnancy website 22 years ago. We had our daughters six days apart, and we’ve written five days a week since then. We text on weekends too if there is big news. She knows pretty much everything that is going on in my life and vice versa.

Is that weird?

Not according to psychologist and relationship coach Dr. Wyatt Fisher, who says, “Long-distance friends can be extremely valuable. Even though they may live miles away, we still can have deep, meaningful conversations with them to satisfy our desire for close connection.”

Phone and internet friends can provide emotional support

I certainly have friends I see IRL. I love them and enjoy hanging out with them. But it seems we’re all so busy these days, and sometimes texting or emailing is just easier and more convenient. Can’t get together tonight? Okay, I’ll shoot you a text, I know you’ll respond when you can.

We learned how vital social media was during COVID when we couldn’t see anyone in person. However, I still communicated more via electronics than I did in person, even before then.

I have many cyber friends I’ve never met in person and may never meet, but they provide friendship and support. For example, I’m in many writers’ groups on Facebook. Of course, we run “writer things” past one another, but some of those friendships have gone deeper than just writing.

virtual friendships

Yes, even if you’ve never met this friend IRL

“Having a friend online, even if you have never met them in person, can provide emotional support that local friends may not be able to provide,” said Katie Ziskind, a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Having an online friend can help you look forward to your day by saying good morning to them.” 

“Or, an online friend could be someone that you speak to on occasion such as weekly or monthly,” she continues. “Online friends can help to boost everyday mood and help you feel like you are sharing your life with someone and having someone to confide in.”

Virtual friendships may work best for this type of pal

The other great thing about a phone or the internet is keeping up with friends who you’ve known since childhood, but no longer live near. A phone call or email is much more practical than meeting up in person.

“Having friends IRL is certainly preferred, but there is significant value in keeping friends that have been an important part of your life, but are no longer available in person,” said Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., LMFT. “No one new will ever know the old you and be able to reminisce about those important years in your life. There is such value in continuing with those close friends you have made and have shared your life with.”

While there is no substitute for a big hug or talking about certain topics in person, the internet makes it easy to stay in touch with many people. The same goes for phone calls. Now with COVID, Zoom conversations can be almost as good as seeing someone in person—and you don’t even have to wear pants!

“We are social creatures and do best when we are in community with others. The more connected we feel, the less depressed we feel and vice versa.” Fisher said.

For me, and the experts seem to agree, any form of communication, whether IRL or through electronics, is good for connecting.

Let us know!

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About Ronni Robinson

Ronni is a member of the Sandwich Generation; she's the tired lunch meat layered between two teenage children and aging parents. She has been an endurance athlete for over 20 years, is 3-time Ironman finisher, and is a certified spin instructor. She is in shock that she has just become an empty nester. Her first book, Out of the Pantry: A Disordered Eating Journey, can be found on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can find more of her professional writing on her website (https://www.ronnirobinson.com/) and her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/RonniRobinsonwrites/).