Since the age of 13 I've had friends who are purely online, living across the country. They've been as close to me as meatspace friends - in many ways closer.
Don't get me wrong, I've been there too, and the only reason I'm not anymore is because I really don't game much anymore. I was a huge gamer from my early teenage years through early twenty somethings. I had friends in guilds, and clans from WoW and Counter-Strike that I've never met that I consider close, and I still talk to them ocassionally. But if for some reason we stopped talking, it wouldn't be nearly as devastating as if my close personal "meatspace" friends did the same. Because we simply share that much more of our lives, and it takes a lot more effort to keep up an in-person friendship than it does an online one, and to ME, it has a much bigger impact on the friendship.
If I had met up away-from-keyboard with one of my online friends does that mean they graduate to "real"? Do I have to do it once? Twice? 10 times?
That's not what I was implying, and that part would be entirely personal and subjective to you. So perhaps I was a little harsh or not informative enough about my opinions in my first post. I was just saying real life friends are better in my opinion, not "the only option". I actually played Counter-Strike with a guy for 3 years, and one summer he decided to come visit us, as we had a handful of members here in Minnesota. He flew in, we hung out, and within a year he actually moved in with me and some buddies in a house we were renting. In later years I was actually a groomsmen in that guys wedding when he got married. He still lives here in MN with his wife, and he will be a part of my wedding this fall. So don't get me wrong, I'm not "anti online friend", but my relationship with him was far more rewarding and eventful after he moved here with us and it became a "meatspace" friendship. I was physically there to take him out when he had rough times with girls, I was there to support him in his wedding, we were there to take him out for beers when he was low on cash, and we threw parties together where he met his wife. So there are some major differences there... that's all I was trying to say. So sure he was once an online-only friend, and how long it takes to "graduate" to real life friend is pretty much when you meet. It's not a bar or stat they have to meet, it just opens up different aspects of the friendship when you meet, and I just feel those "real life" aspects can be more rewarding than an online only relationship. So sure I get online friends are still friends, but I'd be lying to myself if I said I thought that relationship meant more to me BEFORE I started hanging out with him in real life. He became less of an online friend, and more of an actual part of my life. To me, that's a big difference.
For Context, I also met about 5 different people from my WoW guild who came to visit, as most of us lived here in Minnesota, so the guys that didn't would come stay with me when we threw big parties, and I would always invite them and try to get them to come out (even bought two of them plane tickets because they said money was the only issue). One of them, in addition to the guy I already mentioned, also met his now wife at one of my parties back in 2006. And again, we formed a much stronger friendship once he was around here. Again, we were online friends first, and all that it took to become real life friends was simply meeting. It didn't take two times, or ten times, or anything tolabel it, it really only takes once to increase that bond of friendship you already have with someone you only know online. And when you continue to hang out with them it just solidifies.
So sorry again if I offended. I wasn't trying to make a RealFriend vs. OnlineFriends argument. I was just explaining the differences, and that I personally would take one close real life friend, over 10 online-only friendships any day of the week. Online friendships aren't bad, I just don't find them as rewarding as a real life in-person friendship. Online friends are definitely true friendships, I just think that friendships become stronger when you hang out in-person. Anyone who has met online friends and spent a lot of time with them after transitioning from an online friendship to an in-person friendship would probably agree. I don't know anyone who would say "Oh I wish we were online only friends again!"
Hopefully that makes a little more sense and makes me look less like a dick. :(