My Mother In Law is pretty active in an online community, which one doesn’t matter. She calls the people she knows there “Invisible friends”. I like the term. Invisible friends are a big part of the fun of being involved in an online community. Invisible friends are people who have a lot in common with you if in a narrow sense that can give advice and encouragement.
I have found that in places where people gather to discuss a specific range of interests (could be firearms, survivalism, fitness, a hobby or whatever) people are on the whole quite honest. I take folks at face value and their word until given a reason to do otherwise. Every once in awhile there is a troll or somebody who wants to push things in the direction of their alternate agenda. Only one time that I can recall have I stumbled into a total liar.
That being said I do take some precautions. I quite intentionally don’t go into detail about parts of my life, show pictures, etc. Giving anybody you hardly know actionable intelligence to rob or harm you is just not smart. Somebody I have been talking to for regularly for months could, given an iron trap memory or good data management, probably have pieced together a whole lot about me but I don’t worry about that too much. It is one of the risks of getting to know people and has been more than worth the payoff of some interesting and rewarding friendships.
There is one thing I am particularly careful about. I try very hard not to say anything on the computer (blog, email, etc) which I would not want read back to me in a court room. I am even more careful about what I say to folks I don’t know well.
In the Sopranos there is a young female FBI Agent who was tasked with going under cover to get close to the delightful Adrianna Laserva. This gal changed her appearance and her voice and happened to bump into Ade. They liked the exact same things and had the same hobbies and interests and totally clicked. Over time through idle conversations and observation the agent got some dirt on young Adriana. You get where this is going and it wasn’t pretty.
Now I am not saying this has happened or will happen to anybody like boring old you or me. First this is probably tin foil hat stuff. Secondly I seriously hope our government can manage its time and resources better. Third I don’t really do anything interesting.
That being said if an invisible friend ever once talked about committing a felony, especially if it involved illegal firearms or explosives I would run, not walk away. (I am excluding morbid but obvious jokes like, “and that makes me want to start burning down liquor stores.”) There is a saying that if you are at a group/ political type meeting and 3 people are advocating criminal behavior or violence they are all probably undercover agents for somebody or another has some truth to it. Some folks have different concepts of ‘conspiracy’ and ‘entrapment’ and I do not feel like having my life ruined. The best case is that my invisible friend has a couple of screws loose and is planning something bad. That is still really not a situation where I want to be involved.
Aside from a little bit of caution for the sake of OPSEC and being careful about what sort of conversations you get involved in there is no reason not to interact with and enjoy invisible friends.
Beside, you aren’t going to make any real friends sitting at your computer all day wearing a with a tin foil hat so you might as well make some invisible friends.