Friendship in the Digital Realm

The digital realm is a common place to look for friends these days, without a ton of other options. For many moving to a new city, some of us will look for friends first online, with the hope of meeting in person after. 

However, research is emerging that shows that there’s a delicate balance to maintain when transitioning from virtual connections to real-world encounters.

A study conducted by Suffolk University sheds light on the complexities of online relationships. This research tested the Hyperpersonal Model of computer-mediated communication, which suggests that online interactions often lead to idealized perceptions of the people we meet in virtual spaces. 

The study, primarily focused on dating apps and involving 16 participants, found a significant number of individuals who reported a dissonance between their expectations and the reality of in-person meetings. Out of those 16, ten experienced “violated expectations,” resulting in “negative outcomes.” 

While this study primarily focused on romantic relationships and had a small sample size, it raises questions about forming connections in the digital age. It is unlikely that we will fully move away from meeting people online from time to time, but there are a few things to be cautious of with those interactions:

1) Manage Expectations: Be aware that the online persona might not entirely match the real person. How can you accurately portray a person through a few pics and prompts?

2) In-Person Interactions Matter: Initiating connections through face-to-face meetings can lead to more authentic relationships.

3) Patience is a Virtue: Building trust and meaningful connections takes time, both in the digital world and the physical one.

While making friends online offers convenience, the study’s findings indicate that it’s not without potential pitfalls. Striking a balance between digital and real-world interactions is crucial. The bonds formed through shared physical experiences are uniquely rewarding, and we should keep these in mind as we look to grow our social circles. ✨
Friendship in the Digital Realm
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