Just as in the offline world, friendships online need to develop naturally. The good thing is that it's easier to find people who have the exact same interests as you online rather than in person, because groups tend to be more focused. For example, simply joining a forum for Schnauzer owners will put you in touch with several other people who own the same dog as you. If you already have something like that in common, chances are you'll be able to bond much more quickly.
Meeting Friends in an Online Group
Online friends can be found in any Internet group that shares your interests and hobbies. Do an Internet search for the name of your hobby, say "knitting groups" for example, and see what comes up. Another option is to locate a group on Yahoo or Google. You can start by going through the categories (for example, health, arts and entertainment, etc.) or do a more advanced search for the name of your hobby in the group search function.
When joining a group, be sure to introduce yourself. Then, read through some of the past posts to get a feel for the people involved in the group and how they communicate. For example, do they ask each other questions, post about personal issues, offer criticism or comfort? Each group, even those located in the virtual world, has its own "personality" and if you want to fit in you've got to understand how it operates.
Finding Friends Through Facebook
Facebook has made it easy to locate groups of interest. Some of these are centered around celebrities and are an extension of fan clubs. Others are hobbyists who share common interests, like skateboarding, cooking, or even TV shows. Do a search on Facebook under the search term of your choice, or look through the recommendations the site provides for you specifically along the right side of your home page. There, Facebook lists ads from pages that are looking for more people. The ads are targeted to things you've "liked" or commented on.
Meet Online Friends Through Blogs and Websites
If there is a blog or website you enjoy reading, become a regular commenter. Be sure to add to the conversation with thoughtful remarks and not just "nice post" or your comment may get sent to junk mail. You'll soon see others that also regularly comment, and the two of you may strike up a conversation with each other or even with the blog owner.
A site like About.com has several categories of interest, and many of them also have forums (including here at Friendship!) Post a question or comment there and get involved in the conversation. You'll soon find other passionate individuals who share your interests, which is the first step to an online friendship.