Virtually Friends: An Exploration of Friendship Claims and Expectations in Immersive Virtual Worlds


  • Brooke Foucault Welles Northeastern University, Boston
  • Tommy Rousse Northwestern University, Illinois
  • Nick Merrill University of California, Berkeley
  • Noshir Contractor Northwestern University, Illinois



online friendship, immersive virtual worlds, friendship selection, friendship expectations, qualitative interviews


Recent scholarship suggests that immersive virtual worlds may be especially well suited for friendship formation on the Internet. Through 65 semi-structured interviews with residents in highly-populated portions of the virtual world Second Life, we explore the nature of friendship within the immersive virtual world, examining friendship claims and expectations and the specific features of the virtual world that enable friendships to emerge. Results reveal that friendships in Second Life are common but not necessarily dependent on features such as co-presence and shared activities that are unique to the virtual world. Instead, frequent, text-based communication facilitates the emergence and maintenance of friendship in Second Life.

Author Biographies

Brooke Foucault Welles, Northeastern University, Boston

Assistant Professor of Communication Studies

Noshir Contractor, Northwestern University, Illinois

Jane S. & William J. White Professor of Behavioral Sciences in the






Peer Reviewed Research Papers