Lada 🏡 Prkic

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If Aristotle Were Alive, What He Would Say About Virtual Friendships?

If Aristotle Were Alive, What He Would Say About Virtual Friendships?

Despite being many years on social media, I am still amazed at the concept of online friendships and the people I call my friends but never met in person.

The virtual friendship thing is something I think more about after I have read Aristotle’s theory of friendship. In Nicomachean Ethics (Books VIII and IX), Aristotle discusses the nature and purpose of friendship (philia) as the essential 'ingredient' of the good life. The term philia is often translated as friendship, although had a broader meaning in Ancient Greek. 

Nicomachean Ethics is not easy to read due to its verbose style. Besides, the translation of ancient Greek to modern English is a bit awkward. First, I would like to highlight some of Aristotle's thoughts and observations related to the subject matter. His understanding of human nature and the philosophy of friendship is still relevant today.

Aristotle asked:

Can friendship arise between any two people, or only between the good? Can wicked men be friends? Is there only one kind of friendship, or more?

Aristotle speculated that one should distinguish between true and apparent friendship, as well as different levels of friendship. There are three types of friendship, each based on different goals: a) perfect friendship or friendship of the good, b) friendship of pleasure, and c) friendship of utility. 

The perfect friendship based on goodness is only such in the full sense of the word. Since goodness is an enduring quality, such friendships tend to be long lasting. The friendships based on pleasure and usefulness Aristotle considered less valuable and volatile. When there is no more benefit or pleasure, such friendships easily dissolve. Friendship based on utility is the lowest type of friendship because partners use each other for their own interests. Those three types are not mutually exclusive. Friendships of the good are often uplifted by utility or pleasure. 

Wicked men can be friends with each other for the sake of pleasure and usefulness. The wicked do not rejoice in one another unless they benefit from each other. Only good men will be friends for their own sake (in virtue of their goodness), and influence each other in a good way. Aristotle wrote, "To be friends, then, they must be mutually recognized as bearing goodwill and wishing well to each other."   

Some friendships are based on equality and others by virtue of superiority. Still, friendships based on superiority are not long-lasting. When there is a too great gap between friends and one become far more virtuous than the other, the friendship dissolves.

Friendship is the key to human happiness and noble in itself. No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods. "Friends are thought the greatest of external goods."

The good and honest people are not in abundance, and we must be content if we find even a few such to be our friends. Friendships of the good must be cultivated and for good friends is most important to spend time together.

There is a natural limit to how many friends of the good one can have. Aristotle stated:

One cannot be a friend to many people in the sense of having a friendship of the perfect type with them, just as one cannot be in love with many people at once. 


How Aristotle's theory can be applied to virtual friendships?

In today's world, with hundreds of superficial connections made through social media platforms, friendships of the good in the Aristotelian sense are almost impossible to achieve. Even real-life friendships eventually decay over time if they are not occasionally reinforced by face-to-face interaction. What, then, can be expected from friendships that are grounded on text-based interaction only? 

The question is, can the highest level of friendship (perfect friendship) be reached exclusively online? How well we know the character of our online friends. Do they reveal their true selves to others? The same questions go for us. How are we honest in presenting ourselves online? 

Further, can we put trust in people we have never seen in the flesh? To quote Aristotle:

Men cannot know each other till they have 'eaten salt together.' 

It means friendship requires time to evolve and mature, and people need to learn more about each other, conversing over many meals, to become close and trusted friends. Sharing meals also implies sharing all of life's experiences. Exclusively online interactions cannot fully meet that criterion of 'salt eating friendships.'

Out of my hundreds of professional connections I have gained over the years on LinkedIn, I hardly know anyone. I stopped a long time ago to accept invitations to connect if I have not had a previous meaningful interaction with those people through commenting or messaging. 

Having conversations is the best way of getting to know someone better, and text-based interaction is the first step. And not only our direct interaction with that person but the person's interactions with the people connected to him/her. We can also use apps that enable us to hear and see each other, though last year made most of us tired of all video meetings. It is just not a natural way to interact with people.

Despite all the modes of communication the Internet offers us, I still wonder - is that enough? Can we still consider virtual friendships true friendships if there is no real-life interaction?


If Aristotle were alive, what he would say about virtual friendships?

If Aristotle had been living in the age of social media, when people, although geographically distant, can spend their time together with the help of the Internet and its various video, audio, and text communication apps, he would have probably thought of online friendship as one more level of friendship - of a hybrid kind and even close to perfect friendship. 

Technology changed our lives and affected every aspect of them. Social media does change the way people connect with others. What still matters is the meaning of the interaction. I saw online friends supporting each other in the same way offline friends would. If there is a will and if circumstances allow, online relationships can evolve to offline. 

Just like virtue friendships in the offline world, true virtual friendships are rare. I have only a few close online friends with whom I cherish deep personal and meaningful interactions despite never met them in person. 

Still, my opinion is that 'eating salt together' in the Aristotelian sense is essential to true friendship. Spending time with my close friends over a cup of coffee and sharing my life with them is an irreplaceable ingredient of a fulfilled life.

Somehow, I think Aristotle would agree with me.  ☺️



This post was previously published on BIZCATALYST 360°


Citations Source:  Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotlewritten 350 B.C.E (translated by W. D. Ross)

Title Image: Braiding hair together with your best friend is a symbolic concept for true friendship, showing that your lives are intertwined on many levels.


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Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #36

#40
Roberto De la Cruz Utria Your comment "we simply use words, not entirely accurate, but if we hope to reinforce a message, although by such words, the imagination of many one takes flight." Drives how how lacking at times our words are to clearly communicate .. "the imagination of many one takes flight." .. the words we say .. how we say them .. how our words land on another person .. how they interpret what was said .. written Reminds me of one of my poems "Lines of life" There are lines filled with mystery … the TRUTH not always clear And so we “read between the lines” … and search & reach & dare https://www.bebee.com/producer/@fay-vietmeier-pennsylvania/lines-of-life

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #35

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic I noticed that about you in a comment here "you are a hugger" Well please multiply by two ;~) that lovely quality in me and you Hugging is a tactile quality "heart-to-heart" .. words can be like that too .. caring art Whether online or face to face .. this holds true as regards friendship: .. the quality & consistency of communication .. Being receptive .. being responsive .. being thoughtful .. Affinity that develops through words: .. Genuine .. Meaningful Again: Mostly being caring. What is a friend if not truly caring. Somehow through words these qualities DO come across .. in real life and in the virtual Trust is built over time. .. established by behavior & actions .. words & communications are one expression of trust There are "bees" (and a few people on LI) .. I would say I "trust" .. even though we have not met face to face (Many have commented on this excellent post) .. a high level of trust is as you say: "a level of trust you only get from years of togetherness and direct contact" I think Aristotle would make a brilliant bee .. I hope our paths cross in eternity ..

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #34

#26
#27 #28 Fay, thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. Indeed, the vast majority of virtual friendships are based on utility, as we see on LinkedIn - it is my experience. But here on beBee, I can say that most are friendships of pleasure. :) We the 'remaining Mohicans', enjoy interacting with each other's posts. Still, rare are those who take time to actually read and comment or respond to other comments in such a thoughtful and meaningful way like you, Fay. Just like virtue friendships in the offline world, true virtual friendships must be nurtured. It requires much time and energy, and I admire those people who can do both. Is it possible to get the highest level of friendship in the Aristotelian sense online? Maybe yes, but very rarely. For me, true friends are the ones with whom we built such a level of trust you only get from years of togetherness and direct contact. But it doesn't diminish at all the value of my virtual friendships. If I could hug my beBee friends, I surely would. :)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #33

#26
#27 #28 Fay, thank you again for taking the time to read and comment. Indeed, the vast majority of virtual friendships are based on utility, as we see on LinkedIn - it is my experience. But here on beBee, I can say that most are friendships of pleasure. :) We the 'remaining Mohicans', enjoy interacting with each other's posts. Still, rare are those who take time to actually read and comment or respond to other comments in such a thoughtful and meaningful way like you, Fay. Just like virtue friendships in the offline world, true virtual friendships must be nurtured. It requires much time and energy, and I admire those people who can do both. Is it possible to get the highest level of friendship in the Aristotelian sense online? Maybe yes, but very rarely. For me, true friends are the ones with whom we built such a level of trust you only get from years of togetherness and direct contact. But it doesn't diminish at all the value of my virtual friendships. If I could hag my beBee friends, I surely would. :)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #32

#30
Ken, I agree. In my book also, true friends are those like you said. I am very cautious in sharing information about my private life on social media. On the other side, blogging (and commenting) on beBee reflects my thoughts and feelings about many things, and I believe that my beBee friends know most about me. But only my true friends know the real me because we walked through good and difficult life situations together. I need both real-life and virtual friends. Friendships I've made on beBee over the years are deeply rewarding and profoundly enriching. If Aristotle were alive, perhaps he would also be on beBee. 😀

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #31

#30
Ken, I agree. In my book also, true friends are those like you said. I am very cautious in sharing information about my private life on social media. On the other side, blogging (and commenting) on beBee reflects my thoughts and feelings about many things, and I believe that my beBee friends know most about me. But only my true friends know the real me because we walked through good and difficult life situations together. I need both real-life and virtual friends. Friendships I've made on beBee are profoundly enriching. If Aristotle were alive, perhaps he would also be on beBee. :)

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #30

#34
Neil Smith I appreciate your comment & observation Neil "Being vulnerable is the norm when making real world relationships so when vulnerability is shown in the digital world it bridges the gap between the two" If you read my comments below to Lada .. .. the quality & consistency of communication .. Being receptive .. being interactive .. being thoughtful .. Affinity .. Genuineness .. Meaningful Mostly being caring. What is a friend if not truly caring. Somehow through words these qualities DO come across .. in real life and in the virtual

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #29

#26
#27 Thank you Fay Vietmeier! I'll respond to your great comments later. Unfortunately, my social media time is so limited.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #28

#23
To say the least, interesting comment, Harvey. I didn't know that psychologists worry about the fact we use the word, such as 'friend,' along with implying expectations of performance. :) Why words shouldn't meet the performance expectations for which they were created? How we understand their meaning may be different. In that case, we should use more words for clarification. Such as with your thought, "Media "friends" should come with no expectations on my part. That is tough enough to say but even worse to live with".

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

1 month ago #27

I'm not sure in my book, Lada, if we can develop true friendships on social media, irrespective of the established history and ease of interaction and the nature of the platform. In my book, true friends are those who have stuck with you through good times and hard, and who will just be there to listen or share the silence, as seems fit. I suspect that most SM 'friends' are, at best, acquaintances rather than true friends, as very few of us open up and reveal our inner soul on line. 'Friends' on social media cannot 'see' the pain in our eyes while everyone else 'sees' only the smile on our face. Interesting you should refrain from terms of endearment as per #22 below. I believe this is indeed a cultural thing as, here in Oz, we use 'mate', 'friend', 'sport', quite liberally, but mostly between males, and often more that the actual name of the person to whom we are talking. For males addressing women, the older fraternity might use 'luv' or 'darl', although this is becoming less common in the cities, and with the 'youngies', as we sustain our multicultural infiltration and dispersion and, sadly, lose our 'ocker' Aussie traditions.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #26

#22
Roberto, I can only say that we are all different. I don't address people as 'my friend' who are not my friends, even in everyday life. I use their names (or nicknames) instead. I also never call someone 'love, 'dear' and 'my life' who isn't that. I believe it is also a cultural thing, i.e., related to a particular society and its customs. When someone uses the term 'my friend' without actually knowing that person at all, it reminds me of the line in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," when Ceasar wanted to convince a crowd to agree with his point of view. 😃 Politicians also use 'my friends' in their political campaigns.

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #25

"Friends are thought the greatest of external goods." – Aristotle How rare is a “good friend” Friendships are a process of sowing & reaping What kind of friend are you? What kind of friends do you have? You will find much wisdom in this very thought-full post To have a good friend .. be a good friend

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #24

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic A brilliant post !! Lada .. Interesting and universal subject. I recently commented to Laila Al-Alwan that there are select people who I have come to consider as “FRIENDS” on beBee & LI 100% through their words .. I would very much like to know in person .. would love to meet in person .. suggested the IDEA a Convention (LI or beBee) In some central place on earth ;~) Perhaps Perth (just because it rhyme’s) However, arriving at “friendship” has taken MUCH time & effort (at least on my part) Words are an many ways an indicator of character .. but it is difficult if not possible to know “CHARACTER” .. without face-to-face interaction. As Aristotle said “eat salt together” Which would create thirst .. and then “lift a glass together” .. does one walk their talk .. do actions line up with words Wisdom says: Trust people who are trustworthy This is established over TIME .. and through a patient process of getting to know a person. (part 1)

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #23

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic continued "Friends are thought the greatest of external goods." – Aristotle This lines up with a personal precept “Value what is valuable” How rare is a “good friend” Friendships are a process of sowing & reaping .. they must be cultivated .. and nurtured Very true what Aristotle says: “one cannot be in love with many people at once” Roberto De la Cruz Utria and I are like-minded: “the key is in communication” .. the quality & consistency .. Being receptive .. being interactive .. being thoughtful .. Affinity .. Genuineness .. Meaningful Mostly being caring. What is a friend if not truly caring. By my observation .. the vast majority of virtual “friendships” are based on utility I’ll “LIKE” you .. if you’ll “LIKE” me .. get post “liked” .. click “relevant” .. this is time driven. The world is increasingly busy. RARE .. RARE .. RARE is the person who thoughtfully reads & thoughtfully responds. Genuinely cares. For me: This is a starting point for true friendship .. virtual or next door

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

1 month ago #22

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic A brilliant post !! Lade .. Interesting and universal subject. I recently commented to Laila Al-Alwan that there are select people who I have come to consider as “FRIENDS” on beBee & LI 100% through their words .. I would very much like to know in person .. would love to meet in person .. suggested the IDEA a Convention (LI or beBee) In some central place on earth ;~) Perhaps Perth (just because it rhyme’s) However, arriving at “friendship” has taken MUCH time & effort (at least on my part) Words are an many ways an indicator of character .. but it is difficult if not possible to know “CHARACTER” .. without face-to-face interaction. As Aristotle said “eat salt together” Which would create thirst .. and then “lift a glass together” .. does one walk their talk .. do actions line up with words Wisdom says: Trust people who are trustworthy This is established over TIME .. and through a patient process of getting to know a person. (part 1)

Harvey Lloyd

Harvey Lloyd

1 month ago #21

#21
#22 The word friend can mostly anything. I guess what worries me and the psychologists is the fact we use the word along with implying expectations of performance, now that i have called you, friend. Media "friends" should come with no expectations on my part. That is tough enough to say but even worse to live with.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #20

#19
Harvey, you always raise commenting to a higher level. :) I believe we both agree that most online friendships are superficial. Those are not 'philia' relationships. Calling 'friend' a person who commented on your post only once and with whom you had no previous interactions is somewhat inappropriate. To be friends with someone has a much deeper meaning to me. People use the term ‘friend’ on social media too easily. Sharing life with friends is in Aristotle’s conception of eudaimonia or good life. Instead of sharing life in the Aristotelian sense, i.e. spending physical time together, people share information about their life with their virtual friends. It's a huge difference between sharing life and sharing about life. In the age of social media, many spend so much time sharing about their life with people many of whom are just superficial connections. I wonder does that affect maintaining their real-life friendships? Maybe some people can do both.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #19

#9
Neil, you explained vulnerability perfectly. There are many psychological factors why people are more open, vulnerable, and honest on social media than they might be face to face, at least initially. And I believe it's an individual thing. To connect deeply without meeting in person and show your own vulnerability in public requires a level of trust that is not simple. Perhaps, it all starts with ourselves and our ability to make friends remotely. It takes openness and sometimes courage. :) I'm still not courageous enough.

Harvey Lloyd

Harvey Lloyd

1 month ago #18

Interesting topic and has taken some level of thought. Phileo love is the thought, out of thousands of people i see in a collage, i recognise you by name. Overtime we may share some conversation with or without agreement, but Phileo is not strong enough to bare to much risk. We have to move the relationship closer to Agape love where each is willing to sacrifice within risk. In giving this thought, it appeared that the level of grace each is willing to give within the relationship, is the level the relationship can move. How much grace can one give within an online experience? Within the online Phileo experience i believe sometimes we consider these relationships from the Agape perspective. Meaning we place risk within the relationship through counting on support or agreement and get disappointed as Phileo was all we had in the first place. Certainly within each of the greek love definitions there are ranges. I agree with you that pretty much the minimum standard of phileo love can be obtained from the social media world. Some relationships do achieve a higher level as the platforms allow us to share a short term purpose of personal gain. This is the purpose driven phileo. I call these professional friends. Friends that we share a brief journey because it is mutually beneficial. Once the benefit is gone so is the relationship. Great read and discussion as we look at the larger connected world.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #17

#7
In addition to my previous comment and your thoughts on non-verbal communications, I would like to add that I'm a "hugging" person. :) I'm one of those people who hug, shake hands and use other non-verbal modes of communication in face-to-face interactions. We need to explore the world through multiple senses, and touch is the most sophisticated and intimate of all the human senses.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #16

#8
Thank you, Roberto, for such an interesting comment. I agree that many friendships would not even begin in the real world if they hadn't first developed online. The virtual connection preceded the physical. I mentioned several times in my comments on beBee my husband who met online many people in his field (Malacology). With a few of them, he established close and trusted friendships after meeting them in person. So, they were first collaborators on several scientific articles, and after, they became close friends and often visited each other even though they live in different countries. Or another example. If you are on LinkedIn, you've probably heard of Sarah Elkins and her No Longer Virtual project. She is a great advocate of face-to-face communication, and NLV events were opportunities to truly connect with people and deepen and strengthen already powerful online friendships.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #15

#7
Thank you for commenting, Greg. I'm not an expert either, but only thinking out loud. :) "Nonverbal communication is vita to honest or deep interaction." You are right. People's real-life personas might be very different from what comes across based on the written communication only. There’s much more to know about any one of us than what we share on social media.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #14

#4
I met my closest online friends through blogging and think it’s the best way to get to know someone online. Thoughtful discussions with my online friends on their or my blog posts is something I cannot experience with my real-life friends cause they don’t blog. :-) We are not on the same social media sites either. Mohammed, thanks for commenting and sharing. :)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #13

#11
I look forward to eating salt with you, Paul :)

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #12

#2
Yes, my friend, online friendship is one more level of friendship. It is not about comparing friendships. Both groups of my dear friends (real-life and virtual) bring something unique to my life. But real-life friends know the real me. Truly knowing someone and caring for him/her requires years walking beside them in all life's situations.

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #11

#2
Yes, Pascal, online friendship is one more level of friendship. It is not about comparing friendships. Both groups of my dear friends (real-life and virtual) bring something unique to my life. But real-life friends know the real me. Truly knowing someone and caring for them requires years walking beside him/her in all life's situations.

Paul Walters

Paul Walters

1 month ago #10

Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic May we eat salt one day

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

1 month ago #9

#1
Thanks, Robert. A humorous comment, as always. :) I would love to have the opportunity to invite my beBee friends and will fill my fridge to the top for them. :) That 'pinch of salt' would add another dimension to our friendships. The fact that it is hard to happen doesn't diminish what we already have.

Neil Smith

Neil Smith

1 month ago #8

Certainly most online connections would be relatively superficial but there are some who put more of themselves 'out there' on the screen than others and my experience with those people is more rounded and interesting. Vulnerablility may be the best description. It's easy to hide behind a false You on-line. Being vulnerable is the norm when making real world relationships so when vulnerability is shown in the digital world it bridges the gap between the two somewhat. Not convinced I explained that particularly well but hopefull it makes some sense.

Greg Rolfe

Greg Rolfe

1 month ago #7

Pascal Derrien; This concept of virtual versus live is valid in that we consider both friends. Yet as pascal mentioned should they be evaluated on the same level? I expect they meet different needs socially but as to the perfect friend aspect, I see Lada's point as well. Can we have a first-level friendship with someone with who we are unable to accurately communicate with? Nonverbal communication is vita to honest or deep interaction. But then I am far from an expert on friends or virtual reality.

Comment deleted C

1 month ago #6

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Comment deleted C

1 month ago #5

I do not think I would have ever stop wiping if not for Dr Osasu When my lover left me the hole world was like hell I could not cope with it neither can I breathe like i real human. But all the-same I thank God for using Dr Osasu to restore my lose love and making the rest of my life full of joy and happiness by bringing back my ex lover back to me with his powerful spell. All praise and honor be onto you. if not for you Dr Osasu I don't thing the rest of life would have been sweet, so all I will have to do now is to introduce you to people out there who are in similar problem or another to contact you and get there solution just like me. Here are his details (drosasu25@gmail.com) or call him : +2347064365391

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

1 month ago #4

Perhaps, not that we value less those who are in our vicinity, we look for online friendship because that’s more convenient and customary in our passing times.

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

1 month ago #3

Perhaps, not that we value less those who are in our vicinity, we look for online friendship because that’s more convenient, consistent and customary in our passing times.

Pascal Derrien

Pascal Derrien

1 month ago #2

That's interesting but maybe they are just that: virtual, different. Maybe they should not be compared ? I think if some of us on beBee had the opportunity to meet up we would. I suppose the perception and bias element is probably magnified virtually. I guess its a different bond but as long as you care about people is it important whether it is virtual or not ? What do you reckon my friend :-)

Robert Cormack

Robert Cormack

1 month ago #1

Very interesting take, Lada. I think I enjoy online friendships because they remain somewhat aloof. That said, I do find myself wondering if some of my online friendships are more fulfilling than my real life ones. I'd probably explore it more (you know, invite them over sometime), but I'm worried they'll eat all the food out of my fridge.