The internet can be a great tool, and open up new horizons for us all. One place where the internet can help, but also be at a risk of hurting us, is with building and maintaining friendships.
The net is a great way to keep in contact with "real world" friends, and re-establish old friendships from school/college days. It allows you to drop a line to friends in an instant, where as you might not get round to writing that letter for a while.
There are also the new friends that you make whilst online. Even if you join the internet with the intention of keeping everything nuteral, you soon find yourself drawn into conversations on forums, in chat rooms etc... and naturally you'll find yourself wanting to get to know some people better - it's only human nature.
You always have to remember that you don't know who you're chatting with, and that people do lie, or make friendships only to end up using/hurting you. You can chat with someone for months/years and then they'll suddenly vanish out of your life. Have you done something wrong, is their PC broken? Sometimes you'll never know.
If you enjoy chatting with someone online then do so, if you find it's not a pleasure then remove yourself from that situation before you get hurt.
Having said all this, I do feel it's worth taking calculated risks with creating and working hard to cement most friendships made online, I have made friends with some amazing people who I would otherwise never have had the privillage of knowing.