I believe that the internet can both be an effective and ineffective tool to create relationships online. There are those who are introverts and find it difficult to meet with people in a face-to-face setting. Using the anonymity of the internet allows people to become more bold in their social actions. There is no fear of being judged by how one looks, how they talk, what their ethnicity is, etc. Online and anonymously, everyone is on the same playing field. There are no social hierarchies like there are in the physical world. Additionally, the internet facilitates opportunities for people to meet each other and develop a community. For example, in World of Warcraft, players can create and join guilds. Guilds are essentially clans – a collection of players that play together. World of Warcraft actually offers rewards for players that join or create guilds. Players are offered “achievements”, easier rewards, etc. I believe that, in this sense, the internet is helpful for the creation of an identity. In World of Warcraft, nobody can judge you except on what kind of person you are and how you communicate. There are no boundaries, such as class, race, physical appearance, etc. that bar one player from developing a relationship with another. Everyone is a member of the same gaming community, and the opportunities for friendship and communities are endless. This friendship can also take place offline. I have personally been involved in guild meet-ups, where guild members meet at a physical place to socialize. Google Hangouts, where members can see each other and interact digitally – but not through the came – can occur. As long as the relationship is sincere, I do not see any reason why people cannot form beneficial and healthy relationships online.
On the other hand, there is a darker side to forming online relationships. Because social media is so popular and easy to use, it leaves room for “catfishing”. Catfishing is when a user poses online as someone they are not to attract a certain type of person. A common practice of catfishing is making a face Facebook profile, using someone else’s pictures and information. People do this to form artificial relationships with people for whatever gain they think they may receive. Catfishing is incredibly deceiving, manipulative, and shameful. There is no benefit to this practice at all. If anything, it only reinforces the stigma that forming relationships with anonymous people on the internet is inherently dangerous. Sincere communities and relationships cannot be established this way.