Dr. Will Reader has studied how users of Social Networks on Internet consider their relations and his conclusions say that frienship needs physical contact to be solid and real. Many of us have many links in any of the different Social Networks existing on the Internet (MySpace, Linkedin, Facebook, etc) but this doesn’t mean that all of them are friends.
Social networks outseide the Internet have been studied by several experts (Putnam, Coleman, Granovetter, Burt) and treir efficiency in fostering knowledge inseide innovations depends strongly on Social Capital. Trust is a key value in one of the different dimensions that intervene in Social Capital, but after Dr. Readers conclusions, trust is one of the lacking elements in INternet relationships that are not mantained on a physical dimension.
Shall we understand that only virtual relations don’t work as efficiently as personal relations? This would have consequences on many of the supposals of comunication in the global economy, especially on virtual organizations.
I suppose, we must distinguish between friendship (where trust has a very personal dimension) and professional relation (where trust has a more objective dimension, because we may have objective information to evaluate the confidence of specific companies and their representatives).
It is important though to follow Dr. Reader’s works to better understand relationship on the Internet.
You can read about Dr. Reader’s study at: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article2426229.ece