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Are online relationships real?

Yes.

People talk about "real life" as a contrast to online relationships, but that isn't a good breakdown. Online relationships are different than face to face, but just as real.

In the Civil War, many soldiers wrote their last words to their wives and kept it with them in case they died. Many did die. When their wives received their letters, was that real? I would argue that it was very real, even though it was relationship through a different medium.

Before I was married, I was dating long distance. We would talk late into the night on the phone. It wasn't the same as face to face, but in some ways, it was more intimate. We sometimes miss those long conversations where the limits of distance pushed us into a deep conversational intimacy.

On Facebook, I see pictures of my niece and talk to my sister about how she has grown. I comment with understanding on the status of a friend caught in the same airport I was in last week. I share my thoughts in a blog. I hear that a friend across the States is hurting and I buy a ticket to go see him.

All these ways of interacting... face to face, paper, phone, the internet.... they have limits. The limits of each force us to engage differently... and that is okay.

They all (even face to face) allow for us to hide or present a false front in different ways.

They all (even face to face) allow for us to be impersonal, insincere, or distant.

They all (again... even face to face) allow us to call people friends that we hardly know and pretend we are closer than we are.

It is okay to be frustrated with the limits of online relationships, but they are no less real than face to face.