“Cyber Friends?”

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  1. In 2005, I had a fire in my apartment where I lost 95% of everything I owned. Among that was my TV, sound system and DVDs. I have a son with autism who would come to visit and one of the things that would calm him when he had an episode was Spongebob Squarepants on DVD. (Had to be on DVD…not TV.) Well, the TV and DVD player were gone. I remember laying in the closet of the apartment on a twin bed mattress (the only furniture left) crying because I didn’t know how to explain to my 4 year old autistic son why he didn’t have his Spongebob anymore.

    A week later, a huge box shows up to work. Inside was a TV, DVD player and Spongebob DVDs. A group of guys (at that point) I hadn’t met in person but played fantasy baseball with for years pooled money without me knowing to send those items so Eli could have his Spongebob when he visited daddy.

    My “friends”? The people on that scale you could consider “close” or “intimate”? Only one of them stepped up to provide anything beyond “I’ll pray for you.” One person in a church of over a thousand I attended bought me a Wal*Mart futon, chair and bookshelf. Other than that, nada.

    So I’d say from experience they could be friends because it could be more than just chatting via text message. Sometimes you can be more of yourself online and break down barriers that you couldn’t initially break face to face.

    1. Author

      Jason, Wow! What a powerful and moving story! I would like to consider sharing your story with my “Cyber Friends” You nudged me a notch toward believing that some serious friendship can exist on the internet. Wouldn’t it be interesting to meet these guys face to face? I wonder if that would change anything. What if in person one of them was brusque or socially awkward? Perhaps the internet occasionally also lets us see past barriers we would encounter face to face. Thank you for sharing this touching story. I will only share it with your permission.

      1. Well, it lead to real friendships. After that, we’d meet up if we traveled to each other’s part of the country. The guy who organized the TV fund, Kevin, was the best man in my wedding in 2008 and I was best man in his wedding in 2009.

        Feel free to share the story all you want. I’ll probably be posting it on my own blog at some point it the near future.

        1. Sorry, forgot to add he lives in South Carolina and at the time I lived in Missouri. Since I’ve moved to Nashville, he and his wife have come to visit & we plan a meet up in Atlanta some time this fall.

    2. Author

      Just reread your comment. It appears that you met the guys that sent the DVDs. Did that change your perception of their friendship in any way?

    3. Jason, to me the most compelling (convicting) part of your story was “One person in a church of over a thousand I attended bought me a Wal-Mart futon, chair and bookshelf. Other than that, nada.” That sentence stopped me in my tracks. What “testimony” does that church give to the world? The thing is, Rick Rusaw is right when he wonders, “If your church disappeared tomorrow, would anyone care?”

  2. Hi Ken, I like your question and here’s my take on it:
    The degree of ‘overlapping’ between two individuals depends, I think, on what qualities are reflected and which are preferred.
    – I tend to gravitate to people in whose eyes I like myself the best. I would consider those to be my close and/or intimate friendships.
    – If someone’s personality echoes a trait I would rather stifle in myself, I avoid spending much time with them if I have to at all. Here are my ‘acquaintances’.

    Still, I know there are things I need to learn about my place in this world and in God, so I can’t conveniently edit my social sphere to only accommodate what is comfortable to me, because I could be losing out on valuable lessons; also, there may be souls who need interaction with me for their own discovery.
    I think these are the short-lived but necessary contacts.

    I believe God brings people into each other’s lives for more than just social leisure. Maybe we choose the level or maybe it happens as a side effect of how we met, but we need everyone we experience, good or bad, so that one day we can be of help to somebody because of that experience.

    1. Author

      Kimberly, Thank you for your thought provoking comment. A couple of things jumped out at me….. “- If someone’s personality echoes a trait I would rather stifle in myself, I avoid spending much time with them if I have to at all.” This is a tendency of mine as well, although I am not particularly proud of it. I loved your follow up “…..so I can’t conveniently edit my social sphere to only accommodate what is comfortable to me” That is a great challenge. The insight that really caught my eye and one that I wholehearted concur with and too often forget is “…….I believe God brings people into each other’s lives for more than just social leisure.” That is so true. Every friendship from casual to intimate is divinely ordered and an opportunity to show the love of God. Your friends are indeed blessed.

  3. Friendship at any level must start somewhere. You first have to meet some one and then work from there to whatever level of friendship you want. Cyber friends is a start.

    1. Author

      Barbara, I agree. I have had some great friendships start there. At what if any level do you think can only be reached with face to face contact?

      1. Communication is more than just words. Personality, facial expressions, voice tone, general body language figures in. This can only be communicated in person. Cyber friends is fine for social networking, but is limited. Face to face friendship can start and stay as casual or go to very intimate, and even back to casual or non-existant.

  4. If you are gaming on a social network, you will have many “friends” that perhaps meet category 1 (never met but use in games). My experience has included several of those category 1 people evolving to category 2, in sharing experiences. Getting to category 3 though, requires letting down a bit of your guard. Even in a text-only relationship, there can be support, laughter, etc. If there is enough common connectivity, “running into” each other can be an option. I’ve found myself looking at live strangers the same way – curious if they could become category 1, but eventually 3. Never would have happened before learning to be more open on the social networks…

    Ken for instance is between category 1 and 2 for me. Never met but share common ideas. Someday it would be very cool to share the higher levels of friendship. Ken has also provided the encouragement through his presentations to grow my walk with God. That puts him in as a clear winner to be in category 3.

    1. Author

      Harry, Thank you for your insightful comment and your kind words. I often wonder if it is possible to develop deeper relationships with people you have never met. It is so easy to present a cyber image that is not true to ones real character. Something about eye to eye contact seems to solidify or put the nix on real friendship. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      1. I am thinking in particular about a couple people, One on the east coast, the other in Australia. Both were met through the gaming community on FaceBook.

        The one on the east coast is an amateur under-water photographer. I had asked her for permission to use her pictures at church during the “quiet music” time, and she gave it. In the last three years, she, her husband and I have become more than casual friends. The bigger catalyst was that he also went through some character rebuilding as I had to, due to choices we made when we were young and a lifestyle we could not break. The encouragement we gave each other, quotes from books, prayers, etc were very important to me, as were those of friends I could physically poke.

        The Australian lady was deeply against anything related to God. Last summer, her father (living in another country) was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Due to a marriage dissolution and court orders, she could not take her children and go visit her father and dared not leave them behind. I had a friend here at church who came from the area her dad was at. We coordinated a Skype setup so that they could talk and see each other. Her dad did pass away, but they were able to spend many hours talking. Her life has turned around, and one of her hobbies is putting kids and parents together using laptops.

        I agree it is all too often that people portray themselves as virtual super-people when in reality they are the opposite, but just like what Jason said, sometimes the actions outside of the web show the real characters.

          1. I just heard your quip for today and it was the first one in a long time. I use to listen on the way to work every day. I was working 2 jobs (16 hrs) a day (2004-2006)and your quip was the last thing I would hear before getting to my second job. It saved my life. Life was so hard then and it always put a smile on my face and I could face the next 9 hours a little easier thanks to Jesus and you.


            Rich Herzog

          2. Author

            Your comment really encouraged me! I have to write shows today. You remind me of how worth it it is.

  5. Funny, I just read a post about women & friendship. I do not consider our ‘cyber friends’ my friends in real life – to an extent. And I say this because I gave up social networking for Lent this year. Before leaving I made sure everyone had my e-mail address, blog site, and cell phone number. At the time I had about 287 ‘friends’ on Facebook – which is where I did most of my networking at the time. THREE women contacted me during the duration of Lent. One e-mailed me and we developed an intimate friendship. I came house hunting in the area in which she lives (we’re all military) and she invited me – someone she’d never met except through FB for a year & intimate e-mails for two months – to stay at her house. We immediately bonded & continued to do so throught the week.

    When I returned to FB after Lent I realized I value the thoughts, opinions, and daily interactions of my ‘fans’ (so to speak) much more than I value the interactions with the people who are physically in my life. And that changed.

    With the exception of a small handfull, I consider my social networking friends to be nothing more than acquaintances.

    I think it takes one step further than a tweet, or even daily comments to develop true friendship. The person who is willing to step out of the box & interact with you in those ways (e-mails, phone calls, dinner, etc) is someone who is worthy of your real, live, time. =)

    1. Author

      Crystal, So even among “Cyberfriends” there are levels of friendships AND it seems that close and intimate friends who really care are really rare. Thank you for commenting.

  6. I believe they are in all four. I see Social Network Sites, like Facebook, as a way of communicating with others, but at what level depends on how the relationship between myself and the other person develops. I have met people online whom I never knew,started as acquaintances, worked up to a casual relationship and are now close friends. I have met acquaintances and they are still at that level. I think the level at which a “cyber friend” is depends on at what level of the relationship is it at.

    There are those, especially who are younger than me, who get into a popularity contest by adding as many people as “friend” as possible so “prove” they are more “popular” than others. This is superficial and if that is what you are talking about in terms of “cyber friends” then I would position that “group” below acquaintance. I know on my list, though they include acquaintances, they are people whom I met who I have at least intermitent contact with. If I find that I am not interacting with the person at all, or I am getting the singals that my company is no longer welcomed, I remove them from my “friends list”. But I know people who have thousands of “friends” (who are not celebrities) and I doubt they know 10% of them or would recongnize their name.

    What is important is to recognize at what level of freindship and fellowship you are with those people you know, and to continue working on that freindship to improve upon it. And to not fall into a trap of thinking just because someone is a “friend” on facebook that they are even a casual or close friend. You have to realistically evaluate at what level of friendship you are at with each person.


    Ken L. Jr

    1. Author

      Ken, Isn’t it interesting that the very nature of close and intimate friendship makes impossible to have hundreds or even dozens in that category. A person with a handful of intimate friends is a blessed individual. Thank you for your input and for reading my blog.

      1. >>>Ken, Isn’t it interesting that the very nature of close and intimate friendship makes impossible to have hundreds or even dozens in that category

        Hundreds of close friends? Not likely. But Dozens? I think it is possible! HOWEVER, and this is a BIG However, it takes an effort on those who are friends to make friendship and fellowship a priority. An ever continuing message I am to remind as many people of. That we need to make friendships and fellowship a priority.

        What I find incredibily interesting, is today, with modern technology, we have even more abilty to stay in contact with one another, to know what is going on in each other’s lives, and yet we, as a society and community of faith, are becomming ever more and more apart where we are “lucky” to have just a handful of close friends. We CAN have dozens of close friends, but we need to make that a priroity over many of the other worldly distractions that exist out there!

        Thanks for responding to my comment Ken. God’s work through you is always an inspiration!

        Ken L. Jr.

  7. Dear Ken Davis,
    I read your question about cyber friends, on Facebook, with interest. I’m sure you are going to get a variety of responses. This is a rather difficult question to answer as it involves so many variables.

    There are times when cyber friends can seem to fit one or two of the categories you mentions, but there are times when they don’t fit any of them at all. All the categories you listed involve a measure of trust that the person is who they say they are. In cyber friends it’s hard to know if someone is who they say they are. People are quite different online than they are in person. For example, if you met me, you would find verbal communication is more difficult for me than written. If you met me you would probably think me scatterbrained, or slow, until you spent time getting to know me. Then there are the people who pass themselves off as someone completely different than they are because 1. they don’t like who they are, or 2. it’s a game to them.

    In a person like yourself, it’s easy to feel as if I know you because I’ve watched several of your videos and have picked up on certain consistent personality traits. But I’m sure if I met you, I would still find that Ken Davis is different from the way I view you now. Since I’ve only seen you on stage or in videos and have never spoken to you face to face, I couldn’t even call you an acquaintance. I have commented on some of your facebook posts, but that does not even make you an acquaintance, in my opinion. It just means I made a comment.

    I have, however developed some relationships over internet. These friendships are with people I’ve never met, but through the workings of God, we managed to connect wires over Internet at a time I had a great need for them. They have been a great source of comfort and help. But since we’ve never met, I still am not comfortable calling them friends or even an acquaintance, because both terms also suggest a face to face encounter. I do consider them my brother and sisters in Christ and my neighbor (as Christ defined neighbor). I’ve been blessed by their acceptance and willingness to help. I’ve been comforted knowing they were praying and I’ve enjoyed getting into religious discussion with one of them while watching church with them online. (kind of like whispering during church, only the pastor can’t see us) One of these people, who I’ve recently met online, I actually feel a kindred spirit with, and they felt the same. This is all very honest, in the Christian spirit, and with nothing that would be even closely mistaken as acts against our spouses. My husband is aware of all communication and he enjoys it. The communication is of a religious nature, although our personalities seem to be so similar that at times it seems he could be one of my dad’s uncles. And all communication to, and from him, goes through his daughter, who is a delightful lady. I say all that to make sure you don’t misunderstand my actions. I would never do anything against my husband.

    Now this brings me to the point of assuming responsibility for a person’s reputation. Not only did I want to protect my reputation, but I wanted to make sure that the other person’s reputation was protected. In this cyber-connected world, it is too easy to meet the same people and discover who has been talking to whom, and get the wrong impression. Even though I appreciate the encouragement this man has given me, and have enjoyed communicating with his daughter and with the man, through his daughter, I can not honestly call them a friend because I’ve never been with them in person. I’ve not sat down and talked with them, nor have I shared any other kind of fellowship in person with them.

    All the people who I’ve developed some kind of relationship online, and have enjoyed the communication, and getting to know them a little are people I would have to say are online friends, meaning I’ve never met them personally, but have developed some kind of relationship or even a bond with. As for assuming responsibility for one’s reputation, we all are told to do that in 1Corinthians 13:7. The correct translation of that text actually means “all things covers quietly.” I’m not responsible for the actions of another, but I have no right to expose them to everyone. My love for another should make me want to quietly cover as much as is appropriate. Meaning cover unless it is something that the police need to be notified about, or in extreme situations where to protect someone, they must be told of the other persons actions, but not beyond that.

    If I weren’t a Christian I could have probably answered this in a much shorter message, but because I’m a Christian, it affects everything I do, including how I think about a response to your question. I guess I would add the word, “online” before the label of each level of friendship when talking about a cyber friend. I am quite fond of some of my contacts. I pray for them, and know I can go to them for prayer. I will always protect them by being careful of what I say about them. But I would feel dishonest telling others that those people are my friends, without qualifying it by adding online to the word friends.

    You know, I hadn’t thought about this until trying to answer your question, but I think God is the only One we can have any kind of intimate relationship with with out having to see Him face to face. Maybe I’m wrong, but I highly suspect that is true.

    Thank you for such a though-provoking question. I enjoyed exploring this one in my mind.

    Sandra Matthews-Sarve

  8. Hi Ken,

    Off topic a little with regard to the four categories you mentioned, but equally interesting is what I would call celebrity friends. With the advent of Twitter, (and FB to a lesser degree) common folk (and I don’t mean that in a demeaning way) tend to search out celebrities, reply to their posts and attempt to get them to respond directly. If a celebrity does respond, the person’s ego is lifted and in their mind they have initiated a friendship with that celebrity. I’m curious how celebrities view their Twitter activity and if they view the folks who send tweets to them as anything more than fans. I would think that from the celebrity’s point of view a friendship was not formed nor could such ever occur. (although there may be a rare exception) Celebrities are probably cautious about Twitter contacts and that’s not a bad thing. They just need to be aware that how they view the contact is no doubt much different than how the fan views it.

    1. Author

      Most celebrities that I know…… Okay, the two that I know……. Okay, the one that I have heard of….. Allow most of their twittering to be handled by PR people or at least supervised by their PR people. I could be wrong and would be curious to know if any of them actually do most of it themselves. I don’t think one could get a date with a celebrity by twittering that one were available. Thanks your question made me wonder.

  9. I think the internet changes the above definitions a bit,because though you may never meet,you could at least cover the first 3 levels of friendships mentioned,especially when God is in the conversation or you end up praying for each other.
    I remember years ago my mom used to say she loved to ‘gutt-talk’ with people,getting beyond chit chat and have more meaningful conversations,especially about God. I don’t know if maybe there are more ‘shy folks’ out there than in the media, but it’s very hard to get people to not hang out with those they are already friends with,to say more than ‘how are you?’ ‘Good,good’ and off you go.
    I guess people don’t feel any kind of intimidation or shyness on the internet,because you can talk with people pretty freely.And especially through something like Facebook,become quite good friends.
    And on youtube, oh my,there are no restaints…People feel no shyness about sharing their opinions. I’ve chatted several times with people on quite a range of issues.
    Wish I could get my 80 yr old mom on there. She wouldn’t believe how people so freely discuss big issues…but I guess that’s not usually developing a friendship like you’re talking about.
    That would be more like my son who met his girlfriend online. Ended up swapping #s a month or so later. Chatted,laughed and spent hrs and hrs on the phone before meeting..and to make it a shorter story,they’re now married..so I’d say getting to level 4 is possible through the internet.Of course you need to be careful.

    1. Author

      Wow, you got a daughter in law on line!!!!! I bet they didn’t reach level 4 until they met face to face though! I am learning so much by reading the comments. Thank you for sharing your story. P.S. I think I would like your mom.

  10. I view most of my online friends as between casual friendship and intimate friendship. Because you would not believe some of the things people will share with basically a stranger. We may have never met but we solve problems together, laugh and cry together, and help each other with information. I do not know if they can come up to the level of a personal relationship but I believe they are close.

    1. Author

      People seem to view on line communication as much safer than face to face. Thank you for your comment.

  11. Back in the early days of the internet(remember AOL and Prodigy?)I spent a fair amount of time role playing online. I had a “cyber-friend” who swore those relationships were exactly the same as her real life friendships…even going so far as to say she counted me amongst her close friends. In order to prove otherwise I simply said, “Really? what happens if…” and I logged off. I didn’t log on again for two weeks. When I finally did log back on to Prodigy her first comment was, “I see your point.”
    On the other side of the coin I had a couple of “cyber-friends” who took it a few steps further, meeting in real life, dating, and finally getting engaged. We’d never met in real life but they asked if I would perform their wedding. Which I did, in a park, in Texas.
    I think, at the end of the day, it is really about mutual interests and honesty.
    I may have casual friends at work who will never progress beyond that because our only shared interest is work…the kind of people you see at a bar ( well, not Compassion people but…) and quickly find you have nothing to talk about besides work.
    Most online “friendships” start with conversation over a limited scope area of shared interest: a blog post, fantasy league, role playing etc. In order for that to become any sort of deeper friendship there has to be some larger area of shared interest AND both parties have to have been honest about who they are at the internet stage.

    1. Author

      Thanks for the comment Curtis. Interesting observation on your part. “Most online “friendships” start with conversation over a limited scope area of shared interest:” That is more of a head start than many face to face meetings.

  12. Ken;

    Very interesting. I have been “friend” requested on Facebook by folks I have no idea who they are. Some I’ve accepted, based on our mutual contacts, and some I’ve ignored. I generally only request folks I’ve at least had some kind of face-to-face contact with at some point during my 46 years on this planet (that includes you!) When I first got on Facebook, some well-meaning person sent me a list of people to “friend”. I looked at the request list wrong, and thought they were asking me! So I said yes to be friendly back–only to find out I was making the request! How embarrassing! I am happy to kinda keep up with folks I went to high school with a million years ago, and I do enjoy knowing some of what you’ve been up to (you don’t overload with trivial incidents), but, really, I’d really rather talk on the phone with someone I actually know!!! I did get about 50 birthday greetings…hmmm.
    I guess that counts for something in this day and age, when I try to call my friends and sing (silly or otherwise) to them, but until this year, only a handful of people even acknowledged my day. So I’m torn. For your information, I consider you an inspiration and role model in the comedy world, but I don’t go around telling folks that Ken Davis and I are buddies!!! :o) In fact, I cracked up Rick Webb (he and his family and I really ARE buddies, all) when I told him what I was thinking at NQC last year. I told them over Mexican food that both you and Dennis Swanberg said hello to me first, indicating you remembered me. In my mind, I’m filling in the blanks. I told the Webbs that you and the Swan were probably thinking “If I say hi first, maybe this stalker will leave me alone!”
    LOL! Rick’s laugh shook the whole restaurant! Parker…God love ’em…he said, “Aw, they don’t think that!” Wellllll, I’m just sayin’!

    Thank you for the piece of Level 2.75 friendship that we share. I hope to see you again soon, but in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy your FB updates. Oh, BTW, if you remember the tiny schnauzer ornament we gave you in Myrtle Beach in ’08, it was in honor of Ace. We told you about our schnauzer Alex. Well, on July 31, we had to send Alex to Jesus, because he contracted lymphoma in May. It’s been a tough couple of weeks, but we try to understand that God has a reason. So…just give Ace a kiss for us!

    God bless,
    Gerilyn Dawn Doss

    1. Author

      I certainly do remember the little schnauzer ornament. It is on our tree every year. Ace is sitting right by me as I write this. I just gave him a kiss. Yuucck!!!! I have seen what he eats!!!!! So sorry about Alex. Thank you for writing.

  13. Yes, for me, a cyber-friendship is an extention of in-person friendships. I believe they all have a place in my world. For example I have close friends in cyberspace, those are friends I use facebook and email to make appointments for dinner with throught the internet, and then I have casual friends, that I stay in touch with only through my status updates or general e-mail announcements or blogging.

    1. Author

      Every opportunity for relationship of any kind is a God given opportunity. Sounds like you are using all of it. Thanks for the comment.

  14. It’s my cyber friends who have pulled me through the darkest nights of my soul when my face-to-face friends “missed” me and didn’t give me their presence in my difficult times. My husband was “let go” of his church staff position of 27 years because of lack of church growth (800) and we had to leave the church four years ago. I turned to blogging/facebook/twitter more for someone to say something to me rather than silence. I found life in ways I never dreamed like people calling me to come forth as a Lazarus bound up but needing to be unwrapped. I began online bible studies and bible reading together with women I’ve never laid eyes on (some have even invited me to their home in other states and I’ve brought some into my own home). When I went through cancer this year, cyber space showed up. Now my husband lost his present church job this week, again for lack of church growth. It’s been my friends here online who have been a safe haven and stirred my faith. Have you heard C.S. Lewis’ quote: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

    1. Author

      Looks like you have seen some storms in life. One question came to my mind as I read your comment. You don’t need to answer if you don’t want to but what is it that makes your online friends a “safe haven?” Are all face to face encounters unsafe? Here’s praying that a silver lining will appear amidst the clouds. Thanks for your thoughtful response.

  15. Great thoughts from everyone here Ken. Some of my cyber friendships have developed into more intimate friendships some have not.It really just depends. It was through a real world friend that I found CCA and started with caution becoming a member of their cyber messaging board first. Through that board I got to know a few people that I consider dear friends today – one gal in particular – I never would have spoken to her live because I would have been too intimidated. I honestly did not know who she was when we started clicking (She uses a code name) — now, I adore her and we’re going on a cruise together next year. Those friendships brought me to the conference in Nashville last year and more friendships bloomed. I think I told you that once before though — my being there was amazing for me and it started on the web. I have other people I’ve met via my blog and I have one I argue with like crazy, but we’re really great friends and come from the same home town and didn’t know it when we first started our “debates” online three years ago. I know even though we see the world completely differently that we’d do anything for each other. And then there are those people that in the real world, we’d never really click long term, but online we’re okay.

    1. Author

      Good thoughts Deana! I wish I could “argue like crazy” without getting all roiled up inside, throwing up, passing out, going into counseling………..

  16. Very interesting post, Ken. I can see where I would normally consider some of the friendships I have through social networking as close, but my ‘cyber friends’ don’t get to see the real me. I find it much easier to be bold in my words with social networking. It is much easier to speak (or type) more open and honest online than I would face to face (of course I don’t typically type my conversations face to face). So, while I would have said previous to this post that I had some close friendships through the internet, the truth is they are not seeing the real me…the more reserved, shy, and even timid person that I sometimes am when face to face.

    1. Author

      Maybe the “bold, speak easy” guy that you present in your social networking is the “real” you. You said that face to face you are “reserved” that would indicate that you social situation you hold some of the “real” Aaron back??????????

  17. Even though you and I have met when you were in Edmonton one year, this cyber friend relation is pretty much one way unless we, as your cyber friends, choose to respond to you. That is why you encourage us to respond, so that you can find out more about who we are. We think we know more about you because of your story sharing and this site is a way to keep up with you but you only know about us if we share something. Also what we know about you is very planned or written out.

    1. Author

      And I really do appreciate the responses. I can’t always reply but I read every one of them.

  18. I believe that there is no simple answer. Just like real life, the depth of differences with our cyber friends depends on how we connect with each other. Some are merely people with whom we receive and exchange e-mails of one sort or another. Others, however touch us in a more personal way. They have a need which we are able to fill or visa-versa. This, then becomes a stepping stone for a more”intimate” relationship; so I guess that I am saying that the cyber friendships mimic those in the other areas of our lives.

  19. Great questions Ken! Honestly, I believe that people we interact with on these social networks, can actually fit into all these types of friendships, even becoming an intimate friendship. There are many people that I follow on twitter or facebook, or my sports website, that I would go to the end for them, some I’ve never met, and others I have met only a few times. On facebook I’m friends with some that I see everyday, we go to church together, we are family, close friends, confidants, but I can also say that about some I have never met. We have prayed together, lean on each others internet shoulders, supported each other, defended each other, and I would hope they know they can call on me for anything. It’s all about love for one another. If I truly love people the way God wants me to love, then I can have an intimate relationship with all people, even if I only see them once. It’s being the kind of person that lets others know you are there for them, and you love them, whether you have know them one minute or 50 years, whether you grew up with them, or you talk to them through tweets.

  20. Ken, your question = “Do our “cyber-friends”, the social network “friends” we have never met, fit in any of these categories? Are they part of another category all together? Are they really friends?”

    My opinion is that your question and your friend’s categories are thinking ‘within’ the box. I do not believe that friendship (actually hardly anything other that hardware store supplies) can be neatly separated in categories.

    It is an individual choice based on each individual’s experience with one another that determines the extent of the friendship. We don’t need to categorize friendship . . . or love. Why would we? It is what we make of it.

    1. Author

      Interesting our initial meeting was on the internet thought Mike. Now we are dear friends. But that was solidified when we had a chance to meet. I will forever be grateful for that. Not only that i met Bob and the clams. It doesn’t get any better than that.

  21. Saralee’s response got me to thinking (that could be bad)! I know that with an intimate friend, the two people have a mutual respect, mutual love, mutual support, mutual trust,etc. etc. etc. In otherwords, the relationship is two sided.But a one sided relationship, most people don’t consider a friendship, because one person cares, and the other doesn’t really care for, or as deeply, for the other.Is being a friend about having that person be a friend back, or is that need, a selfish one? And if someone doesn’t care or love as much as you do, can they still be considered an intimate friend, one you would do anything for? What exactly is true intimacy between two people? My pastor told me once that true intimacy is sharing of one person to the other, life experience, loves, fears, struggles, things that you share with one person, you might would never share with someone else.That sharing gives you an intimacy with that person, or group of people. If I give my testimony to a group of people, although I don’t know them personally, and may never see them again, I have a level of intimacy with them because of the sharing. When we talk about the word friendship, are we limiting ourselves to only those we know and see everyday, and will that keep some of us from venturing out, and sharing our mountains and valleys with others that won’t love us back?

  22. I think my life is more enriched with my cyber friends.I have met most of them on youtube.I hope to meet some of them one day.There are meet ups through out the year.

    When someone is in a pinch I have seen them come together and pitch in.

  23. I can honestly say I have found one true ‘intimate friend’ online. Yes, I’m a bit older than she is chronologically, but she seems to be light years ahead of me in many MANY other areas. We do share secrets, we pray for each other, we hold each other accountable, and are huge cheerleaders for each other. If she dropped out of my life, it would crush me. Before I met her, I wouldn’t have said it could be done; that a friendship could grow this close before we’d ever met in person. But I can’t say that anymore, cuz we’ve done it.

    1. Author

      Amy, Thank you for your comment. One quick question for you. Would you like to meet this friend? Is there any fear that a face to face meeting might be disappointing? Finally, and you don’t have to answer this if you don’t want to, do you have equally intimate friendships offline/ non electronic / however we say it.

  24. This post and the responses are truly a reflection of our changing world. I couldn’t resist chiming in. Trying to fit our friends and acquaintances into neat categories doesn’t even work very well with people we’ve actually met. Minimally, there is overlap and a number of subcategories, depending on how far you want to drill down in analyzing relationships. That is even more true with my online friends.

    There are those I clicked the “fan” or “like” or “follow” or “subscribe” buttons. Because I read what they share I find myself thinking I know them personally. It’s easy to forget that I only know what they choose to share.

    There are online friends with whom I actually have communicated to the extent that I feel like we are getting to know each other. They are at least “casual friends” on the Goddard scale. Some are important enough to me that I might even consider them “close friends” or approaching that category.

    In our modern world of online interaction, I think there could be at least one more category of Professional Friendships. I have added a circle of people to my professional world (education)who have become very important to me. We share information and assist each other on a daily basis, yet we only know a limited amount of personal information about each other. If I need a suggestion for a resource or help with a particular problem, I can present it to these people and have immediate feedback. We refer to each other as our Personal Learning Network (PLN). My PLN includes people from all over the world. These “friends” have changed my professional life. In most cases, I know little or nothing about their personal values or religious/political views. I have on a few occasions unfollowed or blocked communication from someone whose statements I found offensive, but that doesn’t happen often. We have only our interest in education in common. Even though we don’t socialize or interact in a personal way, they definitely should fit into some category. I don’t want to do without them!

    However, with online communication I always remind myself that if I knew these people face-to-face, my opinion of them might change. I share a very limited amount of personal information with any person online. I’m somewhat of a skeptic because there are so many great pretenders out there and no way to identify who they are. Even though that is true at times even with face-to-face friends, it’s usually easier to verify information that is shared than with cyber-friends. It’s often difficult for me to balance my caution with my enjoyment of the expanded world that online acquaintances provide.

    In my life, I am blessed to have many close friends, but only a handful who I feel know me on an intimate level. Those are treasured friendships that in a few cases, are as important to me as my precious family. As far as Intimate Friendships, I don’t believe that could ever happen for me online. It takes me a long time to develop the level of trust and caring required for those special relationships.

    Online communication with others is becoming increasingly important in our world. I believe it is important for us to continually evaluate the role of these new relationships in our lives. It is critical to keep social networking in perspective with the other priorities in our lives. I have recently seen situations where people become so obsessed with their online activities that they have placed their families and careers in jeopardy. People are learning how to plug in to a whole new world, but I believe it is equally important to know when to unplug.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. In your comment you said, “In my life, I am blessed to have many close friends, but only a handful who I feel know me on an intimate level.” I really think that is true of me and many others as well. I am inclined to believe that “intimate” friendship…. may require a face to face encounter. Thanks again for reading and responding.

  25. I recently sent a Facebook “friend request” to someone I thought was a church acquaintance. Although it was not the correct person, and I apologized for the request, he confirmed me anyway. Once in awhile I’ll see a post from him and, even though I’ve never met the man, I find myself interested in what he has to say. So since I am interested in his life, I guess he would be a friend.

    If someone were to ask how I know this “friend,” I can’t say from church or he’s a family member, etc. I guess I would simply say “just on the internet.” Perhaps another category needs to be added to include e-friends simply defined as I know him on the internet. New friend category: electronic.

    1. Author

      An electronic friend….. Kinda like R2D2! Thank you for the insight. We might indeed need a new category.

  26. I have developed friendships in each of these levels online. Four years ago I joined an online weightloss group. One of the other members is one of my very best friends. We slowly developed this friendship by posting on the group, then private emails, which then led to phone calls and when we did finally meet, I knew we would be friends forever. I truly value her as a friend who believes in me. Others from this group fit into the casual or close friend category. It still amazes me that even after the group fell apart, many of us stayed in touch and continued supporting each other in all aspects of our lives.

    1. Author

      Thank you for the response. One quick question? Did intimate friendship happen before or after you personally met. I still lean toward believing that level of friendship can only be achieved in person. BUT some of these stories are pretty powerful. Thanks again.

  27. I love that this topic is being discussed. For me of course it depends on the individual but some of my dearest friends I have never met in person. One is a young lady in Canada and we chat almost on a daily basis. We fellowship, we struggle, we support and disciple through the internet. I’m a single mom so that right there shows that needs sometimes are not even met. However, God used my internet friends to step in on a regular basis. Some have ordered pizza and had it delivered to my door so after a long day at work I did not have to cook for my family. One year I had been out of work. It was the hardest year of my life. I had always been able to provide for the kids but now it was coming up on Mother’s day and I thought we might even lose our house. I went to the mail and there was a gift card so the kids and I could go out for mother’s day. I didn’t even have more then 20 cents to leave as a tip for the waitress so I explained our predicament and she was so understanding. Honestly some of the friends who live near me didn’t step up the way my internet friends have. Many of these men and women have called me on a regular basis or even traveled out to see me knowing I could not afford to see them. It’s been a wonderful blessing and yes many are my intimate friends.

  28. i think the “cyber-friends” would be somewhere in between aquaintances and casual friends… (i’ll get back 2 this l8r 2day, i’m a little busy at the moment)

    1. back, finally…
      anyways, one of my friends i have known for literally all of my life (she’s older than i am by 6 months) and we talk about everything; another one of my friends, she contacted me first, and we’ve gotten to know each other, of course not as much though it’s about half way to the point of the first friend. though i consider the former as an intimate friend (or very close to it) there is also what i think is a somewhat if not ‘personal’ relationship with the 2nd person.

  29. Do our “cyber-friends”, fit in any of these categories? By the defos of above, cyber-friends would fit under all of these… accordingly to individual people. Some we webcam with, some we IM, some have a real concern & love me for me, others are aquaintances.

    Are they part of another category all together? I use to think so but no not anymore since I’ve built upon those friends with many.

    Are they really friends? Some are, you bet! I care & love some cyber friends just as I would if they were sitting in my living room. — Hope to one day meet many of them! 🙂

  30. A couple years ago I was a moderator on a Christian owned chat room. I met and made many friends there, most of whom never got past 1 or 2, but others became (and remained) close. Of those one is now my fiance and three are like daughters to me (plus several “siblings” and an Uncle.) I’ve also seen the outpouring of love and prayers for someone who only crossed our path once or twice and then moved on. While the means of making friends are much different then they once were, I think the essentials are still the same. Sometimes acquaintances become great friends sometimes they stay acquaintances. It just depends on the people.
    I would agree that “internet occasionally also lets us see past barriers we would encounter face to face.” I used to be rather quiet and socially awkward (still am), but the internet gave me a place where I could open up without fear of criticism or judgment. I have seen rape/abuse victims, lonely kids, and kids with questions about God open up on the net simply because the environment allowed them to do so. They didn’t have to worry about cops showing up at their door or kids at school finding out and teasing them.
    While I now have a few “in person friends” I’m still friends with my cyber buddies and I’m really looking forward to meeting them sooner or later.

  31. Some of the people on my Facebook are casual friends, people I knew at work, when I left I lost contact with them. Some of the people are my family in Hawaii, it is the way we relate to each other and keep up on what is happening in the family. I have two close friends that I visit with on Facebook, one is in Illinois the other is in New Jersey. I think social networking for me, as I am in the older generation category.. helps me visit and stay connected with the people I care about, we share jokes and interact in a very personal way. Personal contact face to face is so much better but in these days of everyone being so far away and busy with their lives, its is a real treat to look on the computer each day and find a message that makes you laugh or feel in a very caring way. I look forward to your posts in a personal way. My spirits were lifted when your granddaughter was found, lost in the woods. I could not have shared that very personal experience with you in the past without social networking..To me, friends, any catagory…come into your life for awhile and then they go out, some stay longer in your life some do not. It is what you do with the time that you have to spend with them that creates the different bonds that can last a lifetime. Peace, Nora.

  32. Ken
    Being a “cyber friend” for me is the direct result of your program in Hampton Iowa. The ups and downs in your life is very similar to the ups and downs in everyones life, just different circumstantes. It is liberating to witness someone just stand up and tell the truth. The unique part is that one can present it in such a way that you can laugh without loosing the essence of what is really being said.

    It is obvious you have, through an open heart, developed the unique ability to give as well as recieve simotaneouly. It is in your giving that you recieve and after being in your company for two hours the mutaul benifits were obvious.

    You have honed the art of giving past a good feeling into a physical act of life, and i think there is a diffrence between this and being a “cyber” friend.

    What is wonderful about being a cyber friend is after meeting someone as significant as you, your hospitality offers a unique friendship that would possilby have been lost if not for cyber space.

    If there is a down side, it would be the ease of which ones’ social and emotional fabric can be maintained without touch, feel, embrace, even though in person you do see the medeocrity, failure, typically average, not always so spectactual aspect of each other.

    I feel strongly that the caring and sharing that overflows on cyber space can parodoxically stifle real life exeriences through its convenience.

    Hunanity certainly benifits from this forum, but nothing takes the place of a soft hand,embrace or the physical presence of someone that cares. This is not to say one benifits more than the other, but the simple physical act of caring yields as much or more for the giver than the recipent.

    My daughter reviewed the Santa list from her children and responded, “Christmas is for giving, not always recieveing.” With that she called Des Moins to see if they could go down and feed the homeless. Now she is a firey red head, like me, but i was worried having her drag my Grandids to a homeless shelter in a big city. I weigh in at around 290, something we could talk about later, but anyway big enough i felt i needed to go along. What a wonderful experince. I heard please and thankyou more than anyhwere over the last few years. My Grandchildren rose to the occasion and willingly helped with activties, and this old bird that thought he had to be the tuff one was reduced to tears of happiness.

    There is no substitute for getting up and physically doing something. I will never forget the time together that evening in Des Moines, no more than i will forget the time with you that evening in Hamnpton. But the real treat was to discover we are all “Ken Davises” when we get up and do something.


  33. I am one of many who follow you on Facebook as a “friend”. I purchased a copy of A Twisted Mind on VHS when it first became available at Family Bookstore. To be honest, I was drawn to it by the title and the image on the cover. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I watched it by myself… and laughed for weeks because of this fella whose sensibilities were much like my own and had a wonderful way of expressing it. I still have that same tape and have shown it (and others among your selections) repeatedly in a variety of ministry involvements including camp ministry. One result of that (not meaning to cause embarrassment here) has been an increase in sales of your media… because so many, including my dad, have seen how effective the material is as an evangelism tool. This is not particularly because of your humor, but rather that your values and your heart are evident through your humor. They trust you, and so do I. There’s also the aspect that what makes humor truly funny is that it contains an element of truth… to drive home the truth of scripture with an effective use of humor becomes a motivation for many to trust the truth of God’s word for the first time in their lives. I’ve seen this happen many times, and it doesn’t happen without some understanding of “trusted friend”. One reason why I know God’s word is exactly that is because it tells me that it can change lives… and it does, even through the effort of a “weird” friend.

    Just as you are apparently mulling around, I too have wondered about the absurdity of network friends, meaning those I’ve never physically met. In turn, that has made me question exactly what a friend is. One thing I know with certainty is that while I’ve never physically met Jesus, He is not merely real only in terms of His historicity, but also as my trusted Friend and Savior. There’s that word again… trust. That is one component that Bill Gothard either left out or assumed in his determinations. A misconception that seems prevalent in this modern society (both in and out of the Church) is this understanding of a “Universal Brotherhood of Man”. This understanding sees that “everyone is essentially good and it’s only life’s circumstances that make them bad, so we must respect all worldviews and values”. Yet, apart from a transcendent source, how can anyone define goodness, truth, or love? My understanding is that Christianity is not inclusive of all things… we are brothers and sisters only by virtue of the redeeming grace of Jesus. An understanding of God’s word points to a universal neighborhood of Man, specifically to treat our neighbors as ourselves, which is often easier said than done. This carries with it some aspect of friendship, if not necessarily for the neighbor, then of Christ who tells us to do so. Growing in that vertical relationship with Christ serves to help us grow in the horizontal relationships of this world.

    In a particular study at church, our study leader was tossing around supposed biblical ethic without any sense of qualification. What he was teaching wasn’t scriptural, but rather idealism as professed by the Emergent Church movement. One statement he made was, “The Church has been doing things wrong for hundreds of years. But now we have a new way… it is to love!” He stated this matter-of-factly as if it’s just the easiest thing to do, and it is… until you realize exactly what Jesus meant when He told us to love one another. I countered that that was nothing new and questioned how that was any easier to do than anything else was. Love can only exist in a world where people have the freedom not to choose it. Otherwise, we’re nothing more than puppets on a string. Jesus’ challenge to us is to love even the unlovely, which seems to add another element to friendship. Having said that, Jesus did tell us to love our enemies, but He left no corollary to turn our backs to them until their status as enemies changed. Should we pray for an increase of their evil deeds so we can love them even more? That doesn’t make sense, even given our awareness of the crazy way Jesus loves us all… He did warn us about what happens when you throw pearls before swine. Not everyone is our friend. Judas served a purpose in God’s plan, but it was not that of a friend, as you would suppose a disciple to be.

    In some ways, the advent of social networking would seem to blur the lines of friendship somewhat in terms of your categories. However, my experience hasn’t proven that. Growing up as a member of a military family, I had attended eleven schools in six states by the time I graduated high school. I joined Facebook in an attempt to reconnect with people that I was friends with in those schools… sadly, I’ve yet to do that with even one person. My “friend” contingent is made up mostly of current local friends and family, though there are a number of others of whom I’ve yet to meet in the physical sense. Strangely, among the more narcissistic of these “network” friends often are family or local friends, while others from around this world have become near and dear to me in wonderful ways. These friendships make me mindful of the friends that were there for a season in my life and live on only in my memory… they help to shape the kind of man and friend I truly want to be.

  34. This is an odd coincidence, because just about a week before you first published this blog, my 15-yr-old stepdaughter and I were having this very conversation. I had commented to her about the 500+ “friends” she has on her Facebook page. I asked why she friended people she barely knew (or didn’t know at all in some cases). She insisted they were ALL her friends. There is some degree of competition among these kids to have the most friends. They also seem to have no concept of what makes someone your friend. The very word “friend” has become cheapened with the introduction of social networking. It used to have real connotations as to the person’s character and relatioship with you, and now it is a meaningless label.

    The other odd phenomenon is that these teens and 20-somethings won’t unfriend people that they don’t even like. When “friend” turns on “friend” they play out the entire drama on Facebook. When Sierra comes to me for advice on how to deal with a cyber bully who won’t stop posting nasty messages on her wall, my first question is always “How does she post on your wall if she’s not one of your friends?” Time and time again, she tells me she hasn’t/won’t unfriend her because she wants to be able to see what this girl is saying/doing. So when offered the opportunity to get these people out of her head and at least exclude them from this small part of her life, she refuses. No wonder they have trouble figuring out what a friend is SUPPOSED to be!

    To illustrate this point to her, I made up a person. We created a fake profile on FB and invited totally random strangers to be our friends. I have to say that even my own ego was a little bruised when my fake person accumulated more friends than I had in less than two weeks. Soon, I started getting friend requests from real people wanting to friend this fake person. It was sad, but proved my point to her perfectly.

    There is certainly a place on the web for friends and family to stay in touch, share pictures and support each other. But the tool is only as good as the person using it. People need to be more aware who they call friend and who merely “follows” them.

  35. Hi, Ken. Well, I think some of our ‘Cyber” friends can fit in some of these categories.Sometimes a person who is far and have not the dayly contact can see things better than others that are involved in your life and like this help you to see things better,in a different perspective. But as every coin this one has the other side too. You need to be careful where you find this friends, their beliefs, etc..
    And of course, we can have great friends that once lived near us and are now very far but they continue to be good friends thanks to the cyber world! I am not living in my country now and I have some!
    Lately, I am even considering you my friend just because one of these days you answered one comment I did on FB…my daughter was laughing at me telling that I thought you were my friend just because of that. By the way, I really was very happy you answered.

  36. You’ve brought up some really great points. I think you have a lot of vision and I can understand how you think. Really great writing.

  37. Pingback: Social Media, Trick or Treat?

  38. I just want to share my cyberfriend story too, because i believe that cyber friends are very valuable..
    Back in 2008 at the age of 15, i lost my Dad whom unfortunatly i never got to meet, could never be “Daddy’s lil girl”
    I was devistated and turned to a website called Daily Strength for support. I come across this lady who was a significantly older than me, but she had lost her mum just days after my Dads funeral. Although our situations were different, we became a rock for each other and the person we would turn to when we needed a cry, a chat or just a good laugh.
    Meanwhile, my friends that i have known all my life had gone weird on me, my best “friend” stopped talking to me all together, and no one was willing to support me, because you can’t miss what you never had right? (wrong)
    Now, nearly 4 years later, i am 19 and Sam is in her 40’s and she has become like a mum to me and one of my very best friends, and i plan to meet her in August next year. She always has the right thing to say and i have no barriers when i talk to her. In all honesty i would say she knows me far better than those friends i have known my entire life, as she has taken the time to listen, console, reassure and laugh with me.. and she has allowed me to do the same for her. We talk on the phone, FB, Gmail, Text, and constantly update each other on our lives. Occasionally we talk about our passed parents, but any situation is one we can solve together. 🙂

  39. Ken, I have an “internet” friend who has been my friend for more than 10 years. We can tell each other anything! We write each other more than once a week. We met on an autism site and hit it off at once. I consider her one of my very best friends, even though I have never met her in person. She has helped me through tough times and I hope I have helped her the same. But we have only spoke to each other a handful of times on the phone.

    I think it’s possible to have a real true friendship over the internet, but at the same time, I believe one must be very wary too. It’s so easy to fool people you can’t see, and who can’t see you.

    1. Author

      Thank you for your comment DianaThink of how great it would be if you could meet this person!!!!

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  41. The thing about cyber friends is there is less to no inhibition, so thats potentially a good thing. However, with that comes almost complete anonymity, and no real accountability. Therefore, i believe that makes the case that cyber frendship should not be considered real friendship

  42. Now! Cyber Friendship, is more helpful in connecting peoples that we know.. Even the teens, are more spending time chatting and talking to those who are important to us.. having happy time with your friends even you haven’t meet them in personal.. You can communicate telling some matters about each other. But sometimes people use it, in not a way it should be..

  43. Now! Cyber Friendship, is more helpful in connecting peoples that we
    know.. Even the teens, are more spending time chatting and talking to those who
    are important to us.. Having happy time with your friends even you haven’t meet
    them in personal.. You can communicate telling some matters about each other.
    But sometimes people use it, in not a way it should be..

  44. I don’t have cyber friends at all because I don’t want them if they cannot or will not even truely idenify themselves. If I already have a “close friend” then I will e-mail them if they live too far away from me, or I will and also they will, pick up the darn phone!

  45. Most of my “cyber friends” have graduated to family. Like my cyber friend turned husband. 😛
    Eventually my cyber friendships tend to either fall away as we start hanging out at different networking sites, or graduate to in person friendships. Granted, it can take years before being able to afford that first visit.

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