Online friends have been found to benefit people emotionally, especially if you use them as an addition to your social circle and not the main focus of it. In 2014, one man lost almost 400 pounds after meeting someone in an online game that eventually became a friend. The person gave him the motivation he needed to change his life for the better.
Online friends can fill in the spaces that offline friends cannot provide. They can offer feedback and support in a different way than your real-life friends can.
Online Friends Give Support
Sometimes we're just more comfortable sharing details of our life with the people we know only in the virtual world. If that's the case, online friends can be a wealth of support during the rough times in life. Your online friends are probably there to cheer you on when you have just lost your job or are dealing with a health concern, for example.
What's more, if you have some unique concerns, online friends from a specialized group can provide empathy from their own first-hand knowledge of what you're going through. Sometimes our offline friends can tell us they are sorry we are dealing with a certain problem (health issue, divorce, loss of job, grieving the loss of a loved one), but they don't know what we are feeling personally.
Having someone that has been through it all before can help you feel more understood so you can move on quicker. However, use your online friends as the added support you need, rather than as a substitute from your offline pals. While you might be tempted to tell your offline pal "you just don't understand," allow them to give you the support in the way they can.
Use Online Friends to Give You Confidence to Trust Offline Pals
People tend to share things with their online friends that may be embarrassing to admit to those they know in real life. But part of building a great friendship is being real with people, so if you're purposely hiding from your offline friends, take a cue from your online pals and slowly share the details of your life with the people you know.
While your online friends can send an email when you're sick, an offline friend can look you in the eye, tell you in person that it's going to be okay, and give you a hug. These are irreplaceable when it comes to healing and moving forward.
Reach Out to Online Folks When In-Person Communication is Difficult
When you're up in the middle of the night worrying about bills or your teenager, you might be tempted to call your best friend up for a chat, but do that once too often and you'll put a strain on your relationship. That's where online friends come in. You can reach out to them anytime of the day or night, even when they aren't immediately available. Just being able to pour your heart out in an email or send them an instant message will give you the emotional boost you need.