I have met many people online, but not physically. Like a boy who's like my brother. They're no less than my real-life buddies. So I have to create a group of contacts devoted to those people only. What can I name that group? Virtual people would be geeky, I need something that's also respectable.
Before the Internet was born, people used to communicate with other people in other places by writing physical letters, mainly for exchanging languages, but also for other purposes, like sharing mutual interests, mating, etc. They'd have their contact details on the related magazines so that the others would've been able to contact them.
That was called a pen friend, or less formally, a pen pal. The alternative spelling for them are penfriend and penpal, without that space in between.
Online friend may convey the idea:
Definition of someone you only chat with on the Internet.
- An online friendship begins when two people bond and have things in common, just like an offline relationship. The friends may share photos, email each other, or chat on the phone eventually. The friendship can become a source of support and provide emotional benefits even though the friends will never meet in person.
In cyber space you can do all kinds of cyber activity, including cyber crime, cyber bullying, cyber security, cyber auctions, cyber attacks, work at your cyber job, obey cyber law, bend to the whim of cyber police, enjoy a journey in cyberquest (jk), find a new job through cyber recruitment, avoid cyber terrorism, attend a cyber university, accumulate cyber wealth, all while making cyber friends.
Just call them, friend, buddy, mate - or what ever you would do if you knew then in person. Why do you need to differentiate?
It’s the bond of the relationship that is important not the term. So pick one you are happy with. Otherwise to add a description of the type of friend they are seems as if you are excusing or justifying the relationship.
Would you say - my gay friend, my black buddy or my disabled mate? I’m hoping the answer is no !!
So call your online relationship what it is without explanation.