Can you make real friends online asks @PsychologiesMag

Guess I better get round to submitting an article that’s skittering around in my head for Psychologies magazine, as I spotted this story asking whether online friendships are ‘real’? I need to get on with my research – once I’ve written my book for parents/turned my PhD into a book (or equivalent digital!), as I want to write a book called something like “it’s real”.

Common themes in my conference papers are:

  • The ‘digital native’ debate has been debunked by Prensky who wrote it in 2001, as it limits by age, rather than by mindset – a more commonly used phrase is ‘digital resident’, although this is not uncontested.
  • I think Dunbar’s number also needs to be contested – I suspect personality type comes into this. As an E, I love having lots of different friends, and some are closer than others. A lot of I’s I suspect, are happier with a smaller, closer number, and there’s more research that can be done on engagement there.
  • Online relationships ARE real, there are real human beings, building real relationships and having real conversations online, and we must always remember that there’s a human being behind the keyboard. This does not mean that online relationships are THE SAME as offline relationships, but they shouldn’t be diminished on that basis.
  • In the most recent talk I gave on Friday, we’re seeking to do research into values in social media, and we were seeking to find the values that I was putting forward when I talked about ‘a blend’, we played around with ‘community’, but I think ‘inclusiveness’ is truly what I’m seeking. It doesn’t matter what tool you use – your mouth, pen/paper, telephone, online – it’s all about conversation, community, feeling a part of it (whatever ‘it’ is), and building relationships, and it’s at the heart of everything.
  • With The Big Bible project we’re seeking to build a sense of community amongst those who are trying to engage with the Bible – whether online or offline, although especially seeking online ways of engagement.

I was intrigued to see responses to my “I could say lots…” at which point I’d stopped with a brain choked full of cold, so I’ve come back today to write the response above… fascinating:

Look forward to seeing more debate – the one re embodiment comes up frequently in Christian sessions (and I love my face-to-face contact, and often use technology to enhanced that!), and I do find myself highlighting the power of digital for those who are physically disabled, but as in all my projects on accessibility/usability – anything that can improve things for those with a disability tends to improve the lot of all!