Through the JR Ward message board, I have developed a few friendships that are just as rewarding as friendships I maintain in real life (RL). We communicate mainly through instant messaging and phone calls. I have found people with similar lifestyles and similar interests, so the conversation flows naturally.
My biggest interest is reading paranormal romance and while this particular subgenre of romance is growing exponentially, I can't seem to find people in RL that share both this interest and others. Many people I converse with don't read paranormals or, worse, have a disparaging view of romance novels in general. Of the people I've met in RL who do read paranormals, we don't have anything else in common. Granted I can talk about books for hours on end, but variety is a good thing.
Another problem is inclusion in the "mommy club." I swear, once you have a baby and have those demands, maintaining a friendship with a childless friend is distressing in my experience. I've been able to find people with kids of similar ages to mine who understand me on a level that others can't. If I'm frustrated because Peanut woke early from a nap or is sick or is being a general pain in the keister, venting to someone who either is going through the same thing or who went through it not so long ago helps me. Peanut is a relatively easy baby, but she definitely has her moments.
The largest problem, though, is the unreliability of my shut-up filter. That's the filter between my braiin and my mouth that keeps stupid, offensive, and otherwise inadvisable words and phrases from being spoken. I call this unreliability my "foot-in-mouth facilitator." When I have gone too long between saying something I shouldn't, my brain circumvents the shut-up filter and I say something that offends, alienates, or hurts someone I care about. Worse, I can't seem to stuff my face with food and drink enough to keep myself from talking. This problem really asserts itself at my knitting group, where I knit with wonderful people. I said something a few weeks ago that had a really bad effect and I'm still suffering for it.
Online friendships are mostly spared the worst of the foot-in-mouth facilitator because I can read over my words before I hit send. I have a chance to consciously activate the shut-up filter before crap spews out of my mouth. It's been a lifesaver. I don't really have anyone I do stuff with in person. Those people who are similar to me as far as the kids thing goes live too far away for casual drop-ins and hang-outs. The friend who is close enough for that isn't speaking to me thanks to the foot-in-mouth thing.
My online friends are my best friends. I adore those I knit with, but I've never done stuff with them that wasn't knitting-related. When I'm online chatting with "aprilla", she can crack me up and comiserate about the antics of babies and toddlers. I can talk with "kraus" and see what the stay-at-home-mom gig will be like in a few years. Listening to "jade" go on about stuff lightens my mood on even the worst of days. I even get to chat with my brother who lives in Maryland on occaision.
I love the internet. :)