How To Make Friends Online

Since I started this blog a few years ago, something beautiful happened: I started to travel. I had been a little bit of a loner before, even if I had my own company and all. For instance, my first trip outside of the country was when I was over 33. Somehow, travel seemed to be something too difficult for me.Speaking of the travels ignited by this blog, I experienced two types, resulting in two types of friendships along the way: one type where i interacted with real people in the real world, on airplanes, in hotels and with backpacks, including countries like New Zealand, Thailand, Japan and the United States, and one in the digital world, where I started to interact with real people, but only on digital channels. Today I’m going to talk about the latter. Believe it or not, these trips and the friendships that evolved proved to be much more fulfilling than the real ones.

My Everyday Interaction Routine

Having a fairly popular blog, like this one, means interacting with a lot of people. Here are a few interaction patterns I have everyday, and the digital channels I use.

Twitter: Some of the people I follow are born in the UK, have family in Poland, but also spend a lot of time in Romania. I’m talking about Ian Peatey from QuantumLearning.pl. Another guy I’ve been talking to regularly is Diggy from UpgradeReality.com and guess what, he lives in South Africa.

Facebook: One of the most interesting female bloggers in the personal development field is Celestine Chua, (from CelestineChua.com) who is currently living in Singapore. She’s driving a lot of momentum with her 30 day challenges. Another pretty active guy on Facebook is Colin Wright, (from ExileLifestyle.com) who is originally from the States but has lately been residing all over the planet, last time in Bangkok, if I’m not wrong.

Skype: Every once in a while I talk to some of the people I’ve met online or in real life on skype. I remember starting a mastermind group with Adam Baker from ManVsDebt.com and Glenn Alsopp from Viperchill.com. Adam is from the States but I met him in New Zealand, and Glenn is from South Africa but has recently experienced a love of all things Holland.

Email: Some of the people that I’ve followed for a long time have also becoming regular contributors to my email inbox. This is the case with Jonathan Wells, from Oregon, as well as Steven Aitchison, from Scotland. I currently contribute a monthly article to Jonathan Wells’ newsletter SharingLifeSkills.com, and with Steven I initiate all sorts of blogging challenges, or we brainstorm projects together.

Web: I make a habit of reading a lot of blogs, and I also like to keep an eye on their authors. For instance, I like Luciano Passuelo’s LiteMind.com (Luciano is from Brazil) and Sid Svara’s SidSavara.com (Sid is living in Hawaii).

Are you dizzy yet? Ok, let me add that this post you are reading right now has been proof-read by a young lady from Montreal, Canada, Jessy Caruana. Jessy is one of my newest friends on Facebook, and she’s taking part in this because she likes my blog (and I’m sure she could do this for you, if you ever need a proof-reader).

So, as you can see, I have a LOT of friends, from all over the planet. What you just read is less than 5% of my daily interaction routine. Apologies to those I didn’t mention here, but naming you all would have easily inflated this post by another 40.000 words :-).

Digital Versus Real Life Friends

There are a few differences between real life and online friends. These differences have to be taken into consideration if you want to start enlarging your circle of friends using online channels, because they will directly impact the quality of the people you engage with, as well as the quality of the overall relationship.

Digital friends are somehow always “on”.

Even if digital friends are not there right now, they will be in a few hours. Being spread all over the world makes digital friends live in a time-space continuum rather than in your own time. So, even if you’re not having a “conversation” in real time with them, they are there and they will respond somehow, eventually.

Digital friends have a limited set of tools to interact with.

Most of the time these tools are only words. There almost certainly will be a lot missing from these interactions, especially body language, eye contact and so on. There will be less emotional involvement as well. Get used to it, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Digital friends have an avatar and a status

Instead of a body and a voice, most of the time you will identify a digital friend by the avatar they use on various social media sites, and by their status. Please, don’t base your whole impression of a friend on these. Behind these images there are real people. They can and will change their mind at any time, even if their status remains the same. Subsequently, when they change their avatar, it doesn’t mean they’ve changed their life.

How To Make Friends Online

Well, enough talking, let’s get down to business.

1. Initiate Contact

That’s the fundamental rule of creating a friendship, and not only in the digital world either. If you don’t reach out and actually initiate contact, you will not transform a person you know into a person who is your friend. He or she may continue to be your object of admiration in some way, but you will not have an open channel to them.

Use social media functions with trust: retweet, like, promote. Start a dialogue. What can go wrong? The worst thing that may happen is that they will ignore you. It’s Ok. Don’t take rejection too personally. If you do that, it will be much more difficult to create friendships than you think.

2. Don’t Fake It

There can be a strong emphasis placed on numbers: Twitter followers, Facebook friends, blog subscribers, etc. Somehow, you tend to put value on the number of people you’re interacting with, not on the actual interactions. In my experience, this is highly dangerous. It will slowly affect your real life friends.

For instance, you may feel the need to use the “like” button when somebody in your group tells a good joke, or you may also look in the room for the “retweet” link. All joking aside, try to see the real person instead of the “social media benefit” you may get out of contributing. Go for common interests not for numbers.

3. Agree To Disagree

These digital channels lack most forms of emotional communication, as well as body language. It’s very easy to misunderstand the other person in the absence of these subtle metacomponents of communication. So, don’t look for a perfect or effortless fit right from the start.

Agree to disagree and look for the common points first. Be more patient, resilient, and flexible than you’re used to. A digital friend is much easier to repel, and then to attract again, than a real friend.

4. Go Live As Often As You Can

I remember how scared I was first time when Ian Peatey sent me direct message on Twitter asking me where the restaurant that I was having lunch was. Wait, will I actually meet this nickname? At this restaurant? No, I’d better run away. Of course I didn’t, and we met face to face.

As time goes by I’ve learned to look forward for these types of encounters. Now I go for live meetings with a digital friends as often as I can. It strengthens the digital relationship even more.

How To Maintain Online Friendships

Being active on Twitter or Facebook accounts is only half of the job of having online friends. Making friends is one thing, but maintaining friendship via digital channels is a completely different ball game. Most of the time, digital friendships last as long as the underlying hidden agenda’s of both parties last. If you’re using social media to promote a product, being it your blog or a customer website, your friendships will last for as long as you have the blog, or as long as you are actively promoting that website.

This is sad. Making a friendship for a hidden benefit is always a stupid thing to do, and it will always come back to you negatively, in one way or another. Most of the time this happens by attracting the same kind of people, ready to take advantage of you for some temporary benefit. What goes around comes around.

So, how do you expect to maintain an online friendship, for the right reasons?

1. Be Patient

That’s the fundamental quality of a digital friendship. You live in different time zones, you may have different interests, or different family lives. You may check in on that digital channel only once in a while. Well, look for that opportunity and be happy when it happens.

Don’t badger your online friends with requests that you would usually direct to your real life friends. They have different levels of availability and resources. If you manage to be patient you may enjoy digital friendships for years. I know, because I’m enjoying some of them right now.

2. Don’t Ask Too Much

This point is closely related to the one above. Be very careful of what you ask. It’s best to make a few trials until you define the boundaries of each one of your friendships. For instance, I know I can send emails to some of my friends anytime, and they will respond, but others will take a few days until they can get back to me.

One thing that may surprise you: be very careful of what you are ready to receive. I was put more than once in the very strange situation of receiving “good karma” from my circle of friends: unexpected service or support. These things will happen, so accept them, even if they look atypical. In a subtle way, this is also a consequence of not asking for too much: you will receive much more than you expect. πŸ˜‰

3. Support Them

This is the hardest part, because of the very narrow nature of this communication channel. The emotional part will be especially difficult to fulfil in this type of relationship. Emoticons, sending tunes, little stupid Facebook games in which you send a heart or something like that… well, go for these. These are the pale correspondent of the real life emotional support gesture that you would make normally.

Also, be very careful of your digital friends, not just when they’re at their peak, but also when they’re missing in action. One week of inactivity is usually a sign of something happening, while one month of absence is usually a sign that something serious is happening in their lives.

Make contact. Ask. Send a joke.

***

Well, I hope that this short guide to making friends online was at least intriguing, if not useful. So, if you’re here for the first time, let’s be friends :-). You can start by subscribing to my RSS feed, and then add me as a friend on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Let’s see how this will work out :-).



Dragos Roua

The guy who started all this. Entrepreneur, ultra-marathoner, tanguero, father and risk taker. I'm blogging here, but I also spend a lot of time in this marvelous space.. You're invited, by the way.

This Post Has 52 Comments

  1. Sandra Lee

    Dragos, A very beautiful and practical guide to connecting in the blogosphere. I’ve also been reflecting on the incredible connections I’ve discovered since I began blogging.

    These are all great tips. I especially like your reminder how it’s easy to misunderstand via in virtual dialog so not to take things personally. I also had a few good laughs about your nervousness at meeting a blogger in person for the first time. I’m sure I would feel the same way!

    1. dragos

      Now you made me curious πŸ™‚ Please share your first encounter on the real world with a digital friend πŸ™‚

      1. Sandra Lee

        I haven’t had the chance yet. Just know I would have some butterflies.

  2. Tony Teegarden

    I swear it was wild, I had just messaged you in Facebook and while waiting for you to respond I saw this post pop up in my Twitter stream haha.

    Amazing.

    Outstanding set of guidelines my friend. I like the Agree to Disagree as many times in the past I have personally “shut down” on people when they disagree too sternly with points of view.

    I realized later on that multiple perspectives are healthy and that not all of us operate from the same hierarchy of values.

    Looking forward to connecting with you again soon!

    1. dragos

      Hey Tony, I can confirm that we were chatting on FB and all of a sudden the article popped out πŸ™‚ Agree to disagree is the key in digital relationship, IMHO. In real life too, but in real life you have more data to rely on: body language, eye contact and so on.

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  4. Jonathan Manor

    These are very thorough amazing tips. I actually came over here from a tweet that Colin Wright, the author to Exilelifestyle sent out. Since I just started out with my blog, making friends online seems crucial. I’m learning a lot from ViperChill and Diggy. Somehow we’re all in the same circle here. I just added you on twitter and I hope that I could grab more of these thoughtful post.

    -Jon from The Titan Project

    1. dragos

      Thanks for being around (I stopped the other comments that Akismet accidentally identified as spam, hope it’s ok)

  5. Jonathan - Advanced Life Skills

    Greetings Dragos, you covered this subject in such a well rounded way. I still marvel at the ability to interact with people all over the world simultaneously. These are real relationships built on common interests, mutual respect, and various forms of give and take. They are a valuable aspect of modern life that truly appreciate. On that note, thank you for being part of my circle and for allowing me to be part of yours! I have learned much from you over the years and I love that you have the ability to surprise me on a regular basis. Looking at live from different perspectives adds depth to the whole experience.

    1. dragos

      Jonathan, I’ll be honest with you: I think I have the ability to surprise myself on a regular basis too πŸ™‚ And I kinda enjoy this!

  6. Diggy

    Hey Dragos,
    Awesome post Sir, and thanks for mentioning me!

    I totally agree with you, since I started blogging around 2 years ago, I’ve made an enormous amount of friends from all over the world.

    Some of them I only email, some I skype, and some I regularly talk to on the phone. Even though I haven’t met the majority of my online friends, I know that if I’m ever in their city or they are in mine we will surely meet up.

    I don’t think there’s all that much difference between online and real friends, if you consider it a real friendship then you’re willing to do the same things for an online friend as a real-life friend (help each other out, chat, give advice etc)

    Cheers!

    1. dragos

      Hey Diggy, for me there is an important difference between digital and real life. It’s true, the basics of friendship are the same: give and receive, but on the digital you can do so little compared with real life. You can throw a party on Twitter, but let’s be honest, it won’t be the same as in real life πŸ˜‰

  7. Steve-Personal Success Factors

    Dragos, this truly is an interesting subject. There are similarities to offline friendships, but there are many differences as well. I’ve been impressed by the generally high caliber of people’s character online. I’ve been very encouraged by the digital friendships I have formed over the last 2-3 years of venturing online.

    1. dragos

      Yes, I kinda observed the same thing: the percentage of morons seems to be lower on the digital world. Somehow πŸ˜‰

  8. mars dorian

    Hey Dragos,

    cool cool. I think it’s amazing how we make online relationships – it’s funny how international your circle of friendship can become.

    I remember talking to Glen and he said how awesome you were – that’s how I got in touch with you !

    1. dragos

      Glen is a star and you’re following closely πŸ˜‰

  9. Dandy

    Hi Dragos!
    Great post. It’s wonderful you were able to make so many wonderful friendships. I’m glad you advocate the no expectations things. Just go with the flow, let things develop natural. I’ve been blogging less than a month and I’m overwhelmed at how much support I have recieved. I’m blown away. I would love to have an experience like yours and meet the wonderful people I’ve been communicating with. Thanks!

    1. dragos

      Well, go for it and initiate some sort of contact. And go out and meet them in the real world πŸ™‚

  10. Clearly Composed

    I have found some amazing friends in the online world and yes, there are different hurdles in forming and maintaining these cyber relationships but there are also unexpected rewards. It is well worth thinking about having an online community of friends in our lives that we can engage with. Here’s to our ever widening worlds and all the lovely people we find in it. πŸ™‚

    1. dragos

      Amen to that πŸ™‚

  11. antonio

    How to make friends online? lol
    Now the net is populated with blogs of Tony RObbins wannabes, and this seems to be one of them. I dont like Tony Robbins, but youll need more imagination than setting a blog and writing articles of this quality to become something alike him ….
    I bet most of these bloggers claim that they make a lot of money blogging, yeah right. And its so pathetic that many of the people commenting are blog owners that want to attract traffic. They dont care to compliment hypocritically each other many times.
    i think man you have a lot of more interesting things to share with us( romania sounds like a land full of exciting stories,dont be ashamed of sharing them with us) than trying to write cheap stuff that will attract traffic easier.
    I dont think the future is far when there will be more people writing blogs than people reading them, if we arent already there.
    Good luck

    1. dragos

      You seem like a very reasonable, thoughtful and intelligent person. From what you wrote you also seem to be quite a grammarian. Your thinking is outstanding and your position is clear and bright. This raises but only one question: what an intelligent, sensible and adorable person like you does on this pitiful dump? I mean, you don’t belong with these losers, so called bloggers that have nothing genuine to share with the world. You deserve much better. Perhaps watching some good ol’ TV to help you wash the dust from your last neuron?

      Anyway, rest assured that comments like yours are pushing me even further. I’m humbled and honored by your visit, antonio.

      1. Ruben Berenguel

        I’m just laughing quite loud, Dragos. Thanks for making my morning more funny πŸ˜€

      2. antonio

        hehe. I can sense the ironic- agressive mood in your reply. At least Im telling you my true opinion, not a fake one from a blog owner who wants to promote his blog. I dont have a blog or care to have one.
        Nobody that I know say this, but I will: this community of self-help bloggers seems like a pathetic religion.
        But anyway, thanks for your reply.

        1. dragos

          I value your true opinion. The fact that everyone else besides you is giving me fake opinions is just an assumption.

          As for self-help community = pathetic religion, I never dreamed to be promoted to such a level. All I do is to live my life as I see fit and share some parts of it with the intent to motivate and inspire. I did motivate you to leave a comment, and, in a moment of inspiration, you made me part of a religion.

          So, it works πŸ˜‰

          1. linna

            i like the peopke who have a positive attitude. so i holp i can do that. i agree with your point and i think that people become more friendly on-line

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  13. Voranc

    Good article with some very concise tips. Although online friends are OK and are needed I prefer real friends. Online friends can’t compensate a lack of real friends. I also like to travel, that’s why I’m going to Nepal on Monday…for one month…interacting with real people.

    1. dragos

      That’s great! Have fun and share your trip! As for digital versus real life, there wasn’t any exclusion paradigm here, on the contrary, digital friends are here to add more taste to the life, not to replace real life friends.

  14. Steven

    “This is sad. Making a friendship for a hidden benefit is always a stupid thing to do, and it will always come back to you negatively, in one way or another. ”

    This is the twist. Of course there are ALWAYS benefits to having friends, online or offline. But we hear a lot of internet entrepreneurs talk about building your tribe and building meaningful relationships whenever you are trying to sell a product. Yet, if we try to build these meaningful relationships with ONLY the intent “to sell,” then the relationship will suffer and, as a result, we actually won’t be successful.

    You have to be genuine. But whenever “hidden benefits” are involved you lose that authenticity.

    Sometimes I think to be a successful blogger you need to forget money entirely. You just need to focus 100% on the relationships and the money will work itself out in the end. It’s kind of like the “attitude of abundance.”

  15. Ayush Kumar

    I found this post very helpful, sir. Being an introvert, I have always struggled at making new friends, both offline and online. It seems I care too much about their reactions and all.

    your article helped me a lot in realizing some facts. Thanks a lot! I think I’ll follow you on twitter..

  16. Parker Lee

    Hi Dragos!

    wow, that a great post… very informal. It should also be labeled as: “A guide to having a successful blog”

    imo, i think most of us now-a-days spend more time with our “digital friends” than real life friends… this includes real life friends who we speak to “digitally”

    so this post really helps out
    good stuff!

  17. Tom Sârhannus

    Hi Dragos, first of all a thank you for your wonderful contribution to the Sharing Life Skills Newsletter which brought me here. Maybe I make myself a bit ridiculous now but it´s just a part of my evolvement πŸ™‚ This was a bit of the topic, hope you don´t mind. Also a thank you for this post, it contains so much valuable information.

  18. Farnoosh

    Dragos, I met both Sid (Vegas) and Celes (Singapore) recently and while I love love love the digital friendship, it was oh so nice to meet them in person among others at Blogworld. Now before I travel, I make sure I don’t cross the path of another blogger friend. This is a wonderful guideline for making friendships online…something I truly believe in now!

  19. Offbeat Woman

    Hey Dragos, Thanks for a great post…love your style of writing! I cannot tell you how glad I am to have found the blogosphere and to have met so many wonderful people including, of course, yourself! I just love being online whether on twitter, facebook or someone’s blog and imagining what life is like where they live and what the weather is like etc. Also, although we already know that everyone else has their down days same as we do there is something so refreshingly lovely about hearing others share their experiences so generously and then inspire with their positively upbeat ways and suggestions for dealing with problems. I only started to blog in late august and I am still enthralled by the generosity of spirt that abounds online. Long may it live! Oh and long live Blip and it’s talented DJ’s too πŸ™‚

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  22. Antonio

    Hello again.
    I didnt replied u as fast as i wanted, mainly because I was kind of busy.
    It seems that you greet observations that goes against your writer ego with jokes. Well, I guess its the way you defend yourself.
    Ok, you tell me your wish is to inspire people. Come on, if that was your true wish, you wouldnt charge them for a copy of your book. You would let them download it for free(the whole book). Thats the ultimate goal, making money, from 99 percent of this worlds Tonny Robbins and gurus.
    ANd about the story of your life, that you made a succesful exit on a business….huh?. Ive never heard of a succesful business people that left their sucessful enterprise, unless of retirement age. And I assume there are a few who do it because of changing economics or technology, but they quickly move to other businesses, not to write blogs!.
    I mean, there is nothing sinful in failing in businesses, but to teach people to be succesful when you havent(all signs point to this) …..well. Maybe another joke youll make from this.
    Take care

    1. MaggieR

      Ho-Hum Ho-Hum ‘Nuff said!

  23. dragos

    Ok, Antonio. You are right. Everything you said is true. But as I already said it in the first comment, that’s also meaning you really don’t have any reason to hang out around here. Be right and be somewhere else.

    Take care.

    1. MaggieR

      Well, said, Dragos, more than two years later!

  24. Usul

    Making and keeping friends online is great. But I think real life is more fun. I am very shy inside, but I’ve been training myself for three months already and am happy with results.

    I recommend reading this article about making friends: http://www.howdoimakefriends.com

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  27. Wegdan

    Hey dragos πŸ™‚
    That article was as awesome as your name! Really! I liked it lots and you know, I’ve made many real life friends… They take up a large sector of my life but they are mostly superficial encounters, I was looking for online friends who share similar interests as mine, people from diverse backgrounds too! So you think I should just start going on forums and blogs and interacting there?
    Like an awesome blog like this, I could make like minded friends?
    Thanks for the article man and I’ll definately be keeping up to date with your blog πŸ˜‰ have a lovely day

  28. FADILI FADIL

    It i is clear that as (steven) said,Money must never been involved in any relationship or friendship; Because friendships means respect; love, sacrifice …and money means business!!!

  29. Zaurus

    Good and useful advice. It’s reflection of your character, Dragos.
    I’m a YouTube singer and am looking for similar singers.
    My latest song is a UFO song.
    http://youtu.be/h838z07fLEw

  30. Haley

    Bla bla bla

  31. Haley

    Bla bla

    1. Dragos Roua

      Great point, never thought at it like this. Thanks πŸ™‚

  32. Haruna Ishaya

    I am very exited about this, because i learnt from it and i am going to apply it in to my life. Nice one.

  33. Haruna Ishaya

    it is not growing old that makes people wise or help them to know what is right.

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