Can you find real friends at language social nets?


I have been a regular user of the language social nets like italki and Livemocha (hereinafter referred to as the said two nets) for almost 2 years, although I was on a hiatus for over 1 year and became active again in October this year. During the period, I have made a lot of friends. Recently I came across an interesting topic raised by my good friend, Judy, as to whether one can find real friends over such nets.

First and foremost, no one would argue that the two said two nets are not dating nets like Match.com or Love.163.com in the US and China respectively, the purpose of which are to serve people who are looking for dates or relationships. Whereas the purpose for the said two nets is for people to look for language partners usually from another part of the world. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to develop real friendship or a relationship.

Having said that, I think real friendship can be made over the nets like the said two nets. It is particular so in LiveMocha, whereby friends review the exercises or homeworks of other friend without any material benefits. A lot of my friends have gone through the trouble of going through the exercises I submitted in details and recommended ways as to how I can improve my language skills. I reciprocate the same by reviewing those of my friends. If that is not real friendship I don’t know what is.

As for my personal experience, I think I have found, among others, a real real friend in Jose Antonio of Mexico, whom I met at italki, in about June of 2008. He was very supportive of me when I wrote a similar blog then. He used to contribute from time to time to my former blog. Jose and I had difficulties understanding each other and I think we still do as my Spanish was limited then and still is, so was and is Jose’s English, but that did not affect our friendship. When I started this blog in about a month ago, without asking, Jose contributed a page long article entitled “The Chinese and Mayans were connected 5000 years ago” (my title), which has created tremendous interests among my Spanish speaking friends. To Jose, thanks once again.

Another good friend of mine is Jenny at my blog at 163.com. We share our personal feelings and concerns with each other from time to time, although we are only Platonic friends. Also Jane too at bzin1.weebly.com, I have been reviewing her English exercises. She is very kind to let me put up her works at my site for the benefits of my other friends. From time to time Jane gave me advice and inputs regarding the said website. Thanks also to Joseph which had written more comments on my blog at Wordpress than anyone, although I have known him for only three days. Also to John, another frequent follower of my blog, who shares his interests in music with me at bzin1.

As I write on, I notice one fun fact is that of all the names mentioned above, they all start with a J, Judy, Jose, Jenny, Jane, Joseph and John. I think it is what we Chinese say I have unspoken connections (緣份)with people’s names starting with the letter J. My friends, if you are angry with me because I did not mention your name as yours does not start with a J, let me know. If that is the case I owe a big apology to you.

Another issue encountered by users of the said two nets is whether one should meet his or her friend face to face personally. It is unlikely that friends of the said two nets would meet face to face as most of them are literally world apart. If such situation arises, what is your position? Personally, I have reservations about meeting a person whom I  know over the internet. Nonetheless, I have met one of my friends, an Italian fellow, together with his wife, when they came to Hong Kong as tourists. They were an extremely nice couple and we had a nice coffee and a nice exchange of languages in English and Spanish.

As a man, I have lesser concern, or no concern at all, regarding my personal safety if I am to meet with friends of the said two nets personally. If you come to Hong Kong, I would be most delighted to meet with you personally and extend a warm Hong Kong hospitality to you. As a matter of fact, I have never had any bad experience with my friends on the said two nets. The same cannot be said of my female counterparts. A couple of them told me that they occasionally were being pestered or harassed by some so called “men friends”. I think that is one of the negatives of an open communications system that one has to live with amid the many benefits that come with it.


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