I believe that scientists get it right when they state that most people understand that there is a difference between virtual befriending and real befriending. I think that one can have both virtual and real friendships with the same people, but that a strictly virtual friendship lacks the authenticity of a real friendship. As discussed in the reading material, real friendships are of a deeper and more intimate nature (Helm 2017). This is not to say that a virtual friendship is any less valuable, I fell that virtual relationships are probably a good thing for some people, people with social anxiety for example, but I think that real human interaction is imperative emotional health and wellbeing.
The reason there is an important distinction between virtual friending and real befriending is the honestly and integrity of a real friendship. While people can be deceptive in real life, it is more difficult in practice that a friendship over social media. According to Vernon, psychologists contend that up to 40% of the information put up on social networking sites might be fabricated (Vernon, 2010, p. 105). That number is quite astounding, nearly half of what is inferred from one person to another in a virtual friendship may be false, or at least exaggerated.
After reviewing the Stanford piece, it is difficult for me to gauge how virtual friendships stand ethically. On the one hand, there is certainly deception among virtual friends, but the question is really, does it even matter? Shouldn’t we, as humans, assume that there is inherent dishonesty in anything as artificial as a social media based relationship? I would like to think that we know the difference between what is real and what is not, and that deep down social media is as much an entertainment venue as anything else.
Helm, Bennett. “Friendship.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 7 Aug. 2017, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/#1.2.
Vernon, Mark. The Meaning of Friendship. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.