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For Students

Maintaining Friendships Online

Use standard writing techniques. Maintaining the norm for typing helps people like you since this standard is widely understood, even internationally. Using all caps, or a mix of uppercase and lowercase, or fancy scripts, is difficult to read and makes you seem pretentious or needy if no one else is doing this.

This can make it look like you are trying to draw attention to yourself, which works online just as it does in person: it usually pushes people away. This is because it suggests that you are unable to take care of yourself.
Avoid “text talk” like using numbers to abbreviate a word (l8er, for example) as it appears unprofessional and lazy, not to mention being difficult to read.

Stay kind and polite. In your comments, don’t be biased or rude. Although you want to be able to express yourself, jumping into a conversation with your guns blazing makes people want to get away from you, especially if they disagree. Instead, maintain a polite and kind demeanor—even when you do disagree—to avoid polarizing the conversation and losing friends before you even start.

Save your passionate opinions for a one-on-one chat with someone who agrees, or for forums specifically designated as a space for debate.

Don’t personally attack anyone. Online spaces are just as particular about this as real-life places. This fact is easy to forget on online, where you aren’t seeing people’s body language.

Ask questions. To get to know people, you want to show interest in their lives just like in real life. Show interest by asking pertinent questions that aren’t awkward or embarrassing to answer. You may find that they ask you questions in return.

Just like in real life, listening is a key for making online friendships.

Be open about your life when you are asked questions, because just like in real life, being shy will push most people away. You can’t build a friendship if there isn’t both give and take.

Exchange email addresses. Once you have established a solid rapport with someone and feel that they are a safe friendship, you may want to exchange email addresses. This is especially useful if you are going to be out of touch (except through email) on a trip.

Maintain open communication. Just like in real life, you have to communicate with people in order to stay friends with them. This means replying to messages, to posts, and asking questions and making inquiries about people before they ask you. This is called pursuing friendships.

Reply to messages promptly. If you wait days or week to respond, you risk losing an online friendship, as it makes you look disinterested or too busy.

Comment often. Not only should you PM (private message) other users on a regular basis, but commenting in forums and threads keeps you current with friends. It also keeps your name in front of them so that you don’t get forgotten.

Tag others in your comments to include them, share ideas, and encourage conversation

Think about setting up phone calls. If your friendship is going well and you have made sure that someone is safe, you may want to consider talking on the phone. Although this mode of communication is already in place for most online gaming, not so for most websites. Phone chats are fun because they make communication instant, deepening your friendship.

Think about meeting in real life, but only if you have already talked on the phone or through video chat to verify their identity. Take your time getting to the point of meeting in real life.

Both phone chats and real-life meetings are normal parts of online dating sites.

Deal with conflict. Conflict with online friends is inevitable, just like it is in real life. And just like real life, you want to deal with it so that your reputation doesn’t become tarnished with other users. Ask to PM or video/phone chat a friend in order to deal with the conflict, rather than trying to work it out in a public forum or slowly over email.

It is recommended that you take some time to cool off before trying to work through a conflict with an online friend, as well as discuss the situation with someone else to gain perspective.