- interest: the person needs to catch my eye for some reason. it could be the stuff they post, the stuff people say about them, or sometimes (probably more often than I'll admit) just a pretty DP - obviously applies to girls only ;)
- contact: a period of intense messaging. usually multiple simultaneous conversations on different topics, replying/commenting on their every post/tweet etc.
- assessment: going through past posts. finding the person's profiles on other sites, engaging with that content if possible, or making a mental note to do so later.
- integration: add the person everywhere. Facebook, foursquare, subscribe to blog (okay, not always), find an excuse to swap email addresses, the works.
- meeting: this is the make-or-break point. my online friendships are created solely for converting into offline ones. people who want to keep their online lives separate from their offline ones, despite going through all of the above, strike me as weird and probably a waste of effort (unless they live far away or something). meeting is usually preceded by exchanging phone numbers, but thanks to whatsapp, it rarely involves actual speaking.
- making plans: after the initial meeting, the person is probably on my mind for the next few days, and so will probably get invited to most of the things I'm up to. plans rarely work out, but there have been the odd (un)lucky few who actually happen to be free at the right places and times. I make plans anyway.
- settling down: we eventually shift to the communication medium that suits both of us, and attempt to find a sustainable rate of communication. this is the trickiest part. mainly because I only have time to do steps 1-6 with one person at a time, and usually need a short recovery period to catch up on other stuff I've been ignoring. making friends is exciting for me, and the excitement tends to overshadow more necessary, but mundane, things. and after that's done and we're in a state where I can manage the rest of my life while remaining in contact, that the future of the friendship is decided.
some people put in a bit of effort from their end, and since I will reciprocate, we end up being in regular online contact, even if we don't meet often (or ever again). if one of us stops putting the effort, everything subsides. they become the "can-be"s
some people end up hanging out with me, and as a result we end up knowing each other pretty well, but then there's a fall-out of sorts, usually after one of us discovers something we can't stand about the other. they become the "somebody-that-i-used-to-know"
and finally, some people hang out with, me, get along fabulously, and eventually reach a point where we don't need to be in online contact to be a part of each other's lives. they end up meeting my other such best friends, and generally become indistinguishable from (say) my college and childhood friends. they become my BFFs.
they become my sustainable relationships.