I searched and couldn't find anything — though that surprises me.

It feels like there are hard to express differences between knowing a person in real life - people I work with, people I went to school with, that sort of thing - and knowing a person online, such as people you play online games with or people you interact with via forums and posts.

I still feel like I know these online-people, or at least, some slice of a persona that they present to me — but the word 'know' doesn't quite feel right, as it at least feels like it should be more different than the word I use to describe knowing someone in real life.

However, guy-I-know-online or lady-I-know-from-forum-postings is really awkward and doesn't feel right either. Is there any word that has any kind of common use that attempts to address this difference?

  • cyknow - from cyber know
    – timur
    Apr 8, 2011 at 15:28
  • I have been getting to know someone online who I came into contact with through my blog. I think there is something really unique that comes with it. In person, you come into contact through chance of proximity, but online and through forums and things, you come into contact through personal thought, belief, and value. It's a different kind of connection, and not necessarily superficial, either.
    – user32342
    Dec 16, 2012 at 17:59

1 Answer 1


It's true that the experience of "knowing" someone online is different to knowing them in RealLife™, but it's also true that the experience of "knowing" someone varies a lot in real life too (there are many people that I have spoken to hundreds of times, yet only know them superficially — having never done more than pass the time of day; by contrast there are people with whom I have spent much less time — but whom I feel I know much better, having — say — experienced a common trauma!).

Therefore using the same terminology for online acquaintances as in real life — qualifying it appropriately — seems to be a natural extension. Compare:

  • I know him well
  • I know her socially
  • I know him online
  • I know her to say "hello" to
  • He's a good friend
  • He's a casual acquaintance
  • He's an online friend
  • He's a golfing friend
  • 2
    And don't forget the Biblical sense.
    – Sam
    Apr 8, 2011 at 16:08
  • @Sam: I was wondering how long it would take someone to make that comment :)
    – psmears
    Apr 8, 2011 at 16:10
  • well, yes - but I guess I feel like I can know someone well, online, and that is still different from knowing them well, in real life - that the environment or common experience which is the basis of the knowing is orthogonal to the outcome, hence my feeling that a separate word should apply.
    – Mikeb
    Apr 8, 2011 at 16:44
  • @Mikeb: I know what you mean, but it's not entirely orthogonal: if the type of relationship/knowing that results from online acquaintance is consistent, and consistently different from other methods of getting acquainted, then even though there is a valid distinction between the method and the result, it is reasonable to label the latter with the former...
    – psmears
    Apr 8, 2011 at 17:21
  • I use "online acquaintance" to make the distinction when necessary. William Gibson in his SciFi novel "Neuromancer" uses the term "meatspace" to indicate real-life interaction - and that, thankfully, never caught on (although his term "cyberspace" certainly did).
    – The Raven
    Apr 8, 2011 at 18:09

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