Pen friends are passe! Internet social networks offering online friends is the buzzword.
With over 20 million online users above the age of 15 in India, social networks are becoming very popular among them.
Orkut, the leading Internet social network has eight per cent of its members logging in from India with almost three-fourth of online Indians looking for friendship.
Divyesh Patel of pyardostihai.com which has an active member count of 60 per cent Indians (with a fair share from NRIs) feels online friendships have the unique power of bonding different people.
"Majority of our members are from both US and India. So this particular mix creates a certain kind of bond between the two kinds of populations," he says.
Friendships across borders spanning thousands of kilometers are not uncommon in this age where heartbeats are transferred through optical fibers, feels Patel.
Old friends and school-mates, college-mates, even relatives are appearing on the Web-horizon.
"The networks help me keep in touch with some friends with whom I thought I had lost touch... for others my cell does the trick," says Lily Agarwal.
For others, reconnecting seems to be passe as they are looking for adventures and possible dates who seem decent enough to be 'promoted' from the rank of Net friends to real-life friends.
IT professionals, who have at least 10-12 hours of Internet access from office itself, seem to be the ones who live up this concept.
Munia Banerjee, employed with a Web development company, says, "The guys on these networks are not always the ones who they claim to be."
Renowned psychologist Dr Samir Parikh feels the "anonymous" nature of Internet-bred friendships is a fact to be focused on.
"The combination of sexuality, loneliness and the need for companionship adds up to make these relationships," Dr Parikh says.
As salaries and material benefits have witnessed an upswing, some feel that they are lonely and a void does exist which needs to be filled up, and soon.
While old-timers are still to come to terms with faceless friends, reluctant parents like 50-year-old Reshma Singh have started to accept her teenage daughter's fascination with online friends.
Her hidden contempt is obvious when she says," How can you be friends with people you haven't seen... but then times are slowly changing!"