When I was in my teens and my twenties, I had loads of friends. They came and went as I moved around a lot, but that didn't bother me very much in those days.
I moved from West Germany to West Berlin in the late 70s and then from Berlin to London in the mid 80s while my friends stayed behind. Making new friends was becoming more difficult as many people were hanging out with friends who they'd know since their childhood or school days. I had a lot of acquaintances in London but I didn't make many real friends. Keeping in touch with old friends from Germany was difficult as my only means of communication were letters. But who had time for writing lots of letters?
In the late 90s I moved to the West of Ireland, first to a small town and then out to the country a few years later. Did I make friends here? A couple maybe in the last 12 years. That sounds awful really taking into account that I'm an outgoing person. But being a city person and a foreigner really set me apart from the beginning and while my husband is Irish, he is from Dublin which is probably worse than being a foreigner in this part of Ireland. "Blow-ins" is the name they have for people like us.
So we persevered for many years but were unable to establish any close friendships based on similar interests.
Thankfully, we got our first computer in 1998 with a connection to the internet. That changed our lives and mine in particular as I started making full use of the social networking available in those days like chatrooms and forums. I met a lot of interesting people over the years, people I was able to relate to in many different ways.
But another great benefit of the internet was that I was able to start looking for old friends and acquaintances, people who I had lost touch with.
Over the years, I managed to locate several good friends from my twenties who I hadn't seen or heard of in 20 odd years. All replied to my emails and some have become great friends again. Sometimes it took years to locate a friend, but I found all the ones I wanted to find.
Recently, I manged to find an American friend of mine who I haven't seen in 26 years. As she changed her name through marriage, I had no means of finding her, or so I thought. But with diligence and patience, I eventuallylocated her and we're in touch again after all this time.
Cyber friends versus real life friends: Well, real life friends who you've known since your childhood or teenage years will probably always be your best friends, but cyber friends can be a great source of inspiration and comfort. Anybody able and interested in using a computer doesn't have to be lonely or bored, as there's a huge world out there with thousands of people who have similar interests. Loneliness these days has become a matter of choice for many, not an unavoidable necessity.
And last but not least: How many people do you know who've met via the internet and who have great real life friendships or relationships these days?
I just found this article on the Irish Technology site Silicon Republic which deals with the popularity of social networking sites and the time employees spend on them during working hours:
Workers waste two hours a day on social networks