Before the Internet, (BE) people made friends the old fashioned way, by meeting them face to face.
Friendships bloomed between neighbors, school associates, co-workers, church goers and members of groups with common interests who gathered and met regularly. Dating Services organized blind dates between likely candidates. We usually lived close to our friends.
Face to face meetings meant we assessed others by their physical appearance, their voice, and the conversations we had with them.
Today, we meet people online. They may belong to a group we have joined and therefore have a common interest, they may wish to become a business contact on LinkedIn, or they can ask to be your friend on Facebook or other social media. If you join a dating site, you no longer have to endure the old fashioned blind date. You can swap pictures and emails and never know one another's residential address.
Today, our friends can live anywhere in the world. We may never hear their voice but feel that we know them intimately after exchanging emails for a while. We've seen their pictures and we've shared some of our more private stories with them, yet we don't know what they really look like or even if the pictures we’ve seen are legitimate.
One can understand why scams have multiplied exponentially in recent years. Most of us have a lot of faith in our fellow humans and just because they seem nice in their emails, we think we can trust them.
So how do we tell if someone is genuine or not?
The answer is we don't. Online scams have caught hundreds, probably hundreds of thousands of people in the past few years.
And yet, despite it all, I still feel an emotional connection with certain people I have met online. I feel their pain when they suffer, and rejoice with them when something good happens to them. I know my life would be poorer if the Internet had never been invented and I truly cherish all the wonderful friends I have, scattered all over the world.