Between Disney's Words of Wonder and another online game from the same company, I have 78 virtual friends. I'm allowed up to 200, but help requests don't work very well if I have more than 100. (I had to unfriend some of them a while back when the help requests failed completely.)
These friends are people I have never met and probably never will meet--not that I would know if I did. I don't know their real names; we have usernames instead. I don't know what they look like; the games use avatars, which can be varied if you want a different hairstyle, dress, shoes, etc. I don't know how old they are, or what country they live in--although the help requests in French or German that arrive at dawn my time allow me to make some guesses.
I would have expected that these virtual friendships would not readily lend themselves to the sort of misunderstandings and hurt feelings that real-world friendships do. If I accidentally click the wrong button and send everyone a sharpening file instead of the energy I intended to send... Well, if I get a gift, I usually return the same gift, because I think that's what the person who sent it to me wants or needs. It's possible that they clicked the wrong button, but in that case I expect them to understand and just go back to sending me energy, which is what most people want. I do not expect people to take a gift of something other than energy as a mortal insult, but anyone who does is free to unfriend me--and probably will.
I try to be a good virtual friend. I log in at least twice every day and send gifts to all of my friends, including the ones who haven't sent me a gift since I sent out the last batch. There are some people who play all day and send gifts every hour. I'm not one of them; I have other things I have to do with my time--and my bandwidth. If I do nothing but play computer games all day I'm either procrastinating (see last week's blog) or so depressed that I can't cope with anything more intellectually or emotionally demanding, such as whatever I'm supposed to be doing. (Currently I know I'm missing at least one Form 1099-MISC, which I need to find to do my taxes. I expect to find it somewhere in the papers piled on or around my desk, whenever I get around to sorting through them.)
In the meantime, I'll play with my virtual friends, who will never choose me last for their team just because I've managed to serve a volleyball over the net only twice in my entire un-athletic life.