my closest friends now are people i met on irc. i personally think that what you read of a person online is really what triggers your interest to be friends with her. but i think pursuing a true friendship (one that goes beyond plain text), is only possible when you've had real contact. i think people get comfortable on irc and on pex because it's easier to talk since nobody can actually see you. the gauge of a true friendship is when you feel comfortable with a person even on a bad hair day and when you're not completely embarassed just because you said something stupid because you're sure that that person will try to understand you no matter what.