Not all or even most friendships need to fit all of the boxes (personal, professional, emotional, intellectual). But the best friendships — the intimate ones — do, especially both the emotional and intellectual areas.
What do I mean by "intimacy"? Intimacy is a concept that is not exclusive to romance. It's also a potential descriptor of high-wattage interactions, feelings, and trust between two platonic friends. In a romantic relationship intimacy can be conveyed via physical contact — just snuggle up with her/him. In a platonic friendship intimacy must be expressed mostly via words and body language. So it can be hard to pin down in a friendship.
Here's one possible sign of intimacy: When you're interacting with this friend, does your best and most natural self come out? Does being the person you want to be become effortless? Do you feel a sense of trust and being able to confide in this person?
Intimacy in friendships is one of those things that you can get along fine without but miss once you've experienced it. Most people I know who maintain deep, intimate friendships value these relationships more highly than their ever-growing list of weak ties. Peak human experiences seem to happen in conjunction with intimate, soul-nourishing relationships. Friendships of this variety blur the lines and categories altogether.
Intimate friendships do not come easily - especially "virtual" friends that you make on social media - there must exist a common bond, a kinship, a feeling of mutual respect and trust that cannot be manufactured.
Another area where people become easily confused is "cyber love" or "cyber sex". I've experienced this and I can tell you that it is fraught with complications and dangers - not the least of which is serious heartaches for both parties.
Cyber-lust is rampant on social media. Often married men and women get involved in cyber-sex activities without thinking through the consequences and one or more partners gets hurt. The spouses of these participants can also get hurt even if they are not aware of the activities.
I'm not a religious person, but I am a very spiritual and moral one. For those who follow the Bible as the inspired word of God, I offer the following:
The Bible nowhere mentions cyber sex or phone sex because "cyber-anything" and "phone-anything" were not possible in Bible times. The Word of God does give us some principles that apply to activities such as cyber sex and phone sex. Philippians 4:8 tells us, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
There are many Scriptures which indicate that sex outside of marriage is a sin (Acts 15:20; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7). Jesus Himself taught us that to desire something that is sinful is also sinful: “You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”
Cyber sex and phone sex are, in essence, desiring something that is sinful. They are fantasizing about that which is immoral and impure. In no sense could cyber sex or phone sex be considered noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. They are virtual adultery; fantasizing about a person lustfully and encouraging another person into immoral lust. They lead a person into the trap of “ever-increasing wickedness” (Romans 6:19). A person who is immoral in his/her mind and desires will eventually become immoral in his/her actions. Cyber sex and phone sex are most definitely sins.
Having said this, I define such activity as sinful only when it occurs in married people. If two people are single, divorced, or what I call "functionally separated" (a marriage in name only with no real love, or where a partner plans to leave the marriage shortly) then I suppose cyber-love is OK; it would be considered part of normal courtship behavior. But if you are married, and you want to keep your marriage, cyber-sex is probably the fastest way to undo everything that was ever good in your marriage.
Just my two cents this Sunday morning.