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Digital Friendship_45min



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The yearning for true friendship is as old as mankind itself. But what makes a true friendship? And how many real friends do you have? We asked serveral people these questions. Read their answers below.

"To me, true friends are the people I like to spend my time with and who I meet regularly." 

"I think, true friends are the people that stand by you, even when nobody else does." 

"If I count Facebook and Instagram friends, I have more than 900 friends. Most of them are not true friends, though. A true friend is there for you anywhere, anytime. You could ring their doorbell even in the dead of night and they would embrace you with open arms." 
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Everyone defines friendship differently. Science has the following definition for friendship:

Some researchers see friendship “as a voluntary and personal relationship based not only on support and trust, but also on sympathy.”

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Digital friendship is a special kind of friendship that allows us to feel very connected to others without actually, personally, knowing them. Such friendships arise for example, when a connection is made exclusively through a common interest and the subsequent exchange is very intense (for example, a fan club on Facebook). Sometimes the people around us have trouble understanding why we want to interact with digital friends so often. It is easier to exchange ideas about certain topics with strangers. This gives a digital friendship a whole new quality.
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“And where is your boyfriend/girlfriend?” This question annoys many singles. To avoid it, there are apps that fake real relationships.

Examples for such digital fake friends are apps such as the “Invisible Girlfriend” and “Invisible Boyfriend”. The user gets to select a name, age, appearance and personality for their fake partner.

Depending on the subscription, users receive SMS, voicemails, greeting cards, flowers or even small gifts from their virtual partner. Even if they do not really exist, the digital fake friends look deceptively real to the outside world.
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The “Woebot” is, similar to Replika, a chatbot. He was developed for people with depression and anxiety. Users can talk to the virtual therapist per Facebook chat. In contrast to a real therapist, the Chatbot is always available and its goal, among other things, is to promote positive thinking.
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Every fourth German has looked for a partner on the Internet. Dating apps and platforms play an important role in this. The selection is huge. On the following pages you will find an overview of apps, platforms and forums for making contacts. No matter if you are looking for friendships, partnerships or like-minded people - with the right apps and platforms you will find what you are looking for.

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Do you already have experience with online dating? If, like Michelle and Josh, you want to make contact online, you should follow some safety tips.

Find out more on the next page!

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False friends exist in both worlds - the analog and the digital. The are many different kinds of false friends on the Internet: they range from cyberbullies to cyberstalkers. In this chapter you will learn how to protect yourself from false friends on the Internet.
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Cyberbullying is a special kind of bullying. Cyberbullying is when someone repeatedly bullies or harasses others on social media. For the perpetrators, the decisive advantage is anonymity. They can insult their victims without revealing their own identity.
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Like cyberbullying, cyberstalking is a crime in which perpetrators stalk and persecute their victims via the Internet. Unlike cyberbullying, cyberstalkers are primarily concerned with being close to their victim. There are many reasons for cyberstalking: They range from unfulfilled love to hate.

In the video on the next page, people affected by cyberstalking tell their story.
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Loneliness - what is it anyways? According to the Psychology Today, loneliness is the negative feeling of being separated and isolated from other people. People who are lonely often feel excluded, isolated and unloved.

Today, people often use their smartphones to escape the feeling of loneliness. Therefore, a distinction has to be made between analog and digital loneliness. You can find out more about the difference on the next page.
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Whether at the bus stop or in our own bedrooms - smartphones are our constant companions. We use them to make contact with other people and feel close to them despite being separated. This is also called “ambient awareness”. Critics are skeptical of this intimacy. Thanks to social media, we are constantly connected and never alone - and yet sometimes we feel lonely. Maximilian Dorner calls this “digital loneliness”.

Digital loneliness or digitally connected?  Read the case studies on the following pages.
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An intense digital life with lots of digital friends can make you happy, or do exactly the opposite. 
But how do digital tools and friendships impact our analog relationships? And which impact do digital friendships have on the feeling of loneliness some people are experiencing? 
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The average smartphone user looks at their smartphone more than 200 times a day. For Tom (42), this figure is probably much higher. Even when having dinner with friends, he cannot part with his digital companion. This behavior is called “phubbing”. The term is composed of “phone” (short for smartphone) and “snubbing”. By paying more attention to his smartphone than to his friends, Tom is offending them with his behavior.

Tom’s girlfriend often tells him: “Put down your smartphone so you have more time for your offline friendships again.” She specifically suggests a “digital diet” (“digital detox”).  

What do you think about her suggestion? What can Tom do to improve the situation? 
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Daniel (9) suffers from Asperger syndrome. It is a form of autism. People like Daniel have problems reading and understanding the feelings of others. It is therefore difficult for them to make and maintain friendships. The “Zirkus Empathico" app consists of many different training games. With them, Daniel learns to recognize and name his own feelings and those of others by means of short videos. Thanks to the app, Daniel succeeds in interpreting his own emotions and those of others better and better. This has allowed him to make his first real friends.

With apps like these, autistic people can participate more in social life.
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The Internet and social media can be a bridge for friendships and social relationships. Digital connectivity has many advantages. In social media, moments can be shared with people who are very far away from us. Sharing, liking and commenting can transform loneliness into happiness. In this module, you learned about the many ways that digital media connects people. And if you follow our tips, you do not have to fear false friends on the Internet.

You can find a summary of this module in the download section. 

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