Real friends: how the Internet can foster friendship

Abstract

Dean Cocking and Steve Matthews’ article “Unreal Friends” (Ethics and Information Technology, 2000) argues that the formation of purely mediated friendships via the Internet is impossible. I critique their argument and contend that mediated contexts, including the Internet, can actually promote exceptionally strong friendships according to the very conceptual criteria utilized by Cocking and Matthews. I first argue that offline relationships can be constrictive and insincere, distorting important indicators and dynamics in the formation of close friends. The distance of mediated friendships mitigates this problem by promoting the courage to be candid. Next, I argue that the offline world of largely oral exchanges is often too shallow and hasty to promote deep bonds. The deliberateness of written correspondence acts as a weight to submerge friendships to greater depths and as a brake to enhance attentiveness to and precision about one’s own and one’s friend’s character. Nonetheless, close friendships may fail to develop on the Internet. Insofar as this failure occurs, however, it would be for reasons other than those identified by Cocking and Matthews.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Arendt Hannah (2003) Responsibility and Judgment. New York: Schocken Books

    Google Scholar 

  2. Badhwar Neera Kapur (1993) Friendship: A Philosophical Reader. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cocking Dean, Kennett J. (1998) Friendship and the Self. Ethics 108(3): 502–527

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Dean Cocking and Steve Matthews. Unreal Friends. Ethics and Information Technology, 2(4): 223–231, 2001

    Google Scholar 

  5. Michel Foucault, Ethics: Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, Vol. 1. Paul Rabinow, editor. London: Penguin Books, 1994

  6. Goffman Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Mayflower

    Google Scholar 

  7. McPherson M., Smith-Lovin L., Brashears M.E. (2006) Social Isolation in America: Changes in Core Discussion Networks over Two Decades. American Sociological Review 71: 353–375

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Ong Walter (1982) Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the World. New York: Routledge

    Google Scholar 

  9. Pakaluk Michael (1991) Other Selves: Philosophers on Friendship. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett

    Google Scholar 

  10. Elizabeth, Telfer. Friendship. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 223–241, 1971

  11. Vernon Mark (2005) The Philosophy of Friendship. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

    Google Scholar 

  12. Wellman B., Quan Haase A., Witte J., Hampton K. (2001) Does the Internet Increase, Decrease, or Supplement Social Capital? American Behavioral Scientist 45(3): 437–456

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Adam Briggle.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Briggle, A. Real friends: how the Internet can foster friendship . Ethics Inf Technol 10, 71–79 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10676-008-9160-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • computer-mediated communication
  • cyberspace
  • friendship
  • Internet
  • online relationships