When I saw this article on ArsTechnica about how people with online friends feel as close to them as real-life friends, my gut reaction well no duh! Of course, the biggest example of this in my life is my wife. Met her over 10 years ago online. We've been married for seven years.
There are, of course, plenty of others, both in my professional life and my personal life. Plenty of people I have yet to meet in real life that I feel close to. Online is just one more way to meet and/or stay in touch with people. Or not stay in touch, depending on your druthers.