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Making And Maintaining Online Friendships

Published: March 6, 2013 | Last Updated: August 24, 2022 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading
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Just like offline ones, online friendships need to work for both people to be lasting and rewarding. 


Hi Irene,

I am often caught off guard by the recurring incidence of online “friends” (emailing, blogging, and/or Facebook) who want to take the friendship to the “face-to-face” level. The Internet has destroyed some important boundaries.

Three years ago, for instance, I “met” a colleague through a professional group online. We live in the same county and share common professional goals and interests. I have enjoyed our emails and Facebook connections.

However, this woman not only relies on my professional advice and contacts, but she wants us to be social friends as well. She often asks me to get together for lunch and has even invited me to her home for dinner for “girls’ night out,” and so on. (We’ve had lunch early on, but I have declined the parties and dinner invitations.)

She is, at times, rather pushy and demanding — which has been a red flag to me. She emails me for my professional help even when she knows I am going through a busy period and don’t have much free time. She’s always in need of special attention.

I am not interested in taking this friendship to another level. I have several close friends with whom I get together often, and I have a close family. I am protective of my time.

I sense this woman thinks we’re closer than we really are. I don’t want to cut off the online relationship we have professionally, but want to find a way to tell her that I am not available for the in-person friendship she wants. I miss the old days when I worked in an office and it was easier to separate office or business friendship from social friendship.

Is it wrong to want to limit certain online friendships to “online only??”




Hi Hayley,

I used to live in the Washington, D.C. area. Shortly after I moved away, a close friend was moving from New Jersey to the same neighborhood I had lived in. I eagerly called my friend in Washington and asked if she would like me to introduce the two of them to each other. She responded, “Irene, I barely have enough time for my own friends, let alone yours.”

Her response was a bit blunt but I appreciated her candor. Friendships are voluntary relationships and she didn’t need or want any more, which I had to respect.

Perhaps, you can tell your online friend something similar: “I enjoy our online friendship but just don’t have time for any more friendships right now given my existing involvements with family and friends.”

Unfortunately, it sounds like this woman is also a bit pushy and demanding. If that is the case, the only thing you can do is be firm about setting boundaries for your online friendship that work for you.

If she asks for help when you don’t have time, let her know that you’re busy (or on deadline) right now and can’t get back to her until the evening or the next morning. If you acquiesce to every one of her demands, you will find yourself frustrated and resentful.

Online friendships need to be made and tended to with the same honesty and grace as in-person ones.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Also on The Friendship Blog:

Online Friendships: As Close As A Keystroke

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Category: MAKING FRIENDS, Where to meet friends

Comments (1)

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  1. Amy says:

    One of the problems with online friendships is that people can more easier hide their character flaws than if you met the person face to face and observed them interacting with other people. Most of the time this is probably more lack of insight than deception, but the latter also happens.
    I think people also assume a faster intimacy, they open up more quickly and feel a kinship where one may not actually exist, because of the one dimensional communication of the Internet, as well as a certain anonymity.
    I’d be honest with her and say you don’t have the time and energy to invest in the relationship to the level she does. I think the longer you allow this to continue, the harder it will be to distance yourself.
    Good luck.

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