"We're not friends. We're just online acquaintances."
This phrase, spat out over Vent in a mad GM rage, was one of the first hard lessons I learned playing WoW. It came from the mouth of the GM of what had been a fun friends and family guild that had some success with 10 man BC raiding, but was at loggerheads over an elephant in the room that went by the name of Our Main Tank Who Is Terrible But Since She is a Girl Our GM Has a Sort of Crush On We All Have to Compensate For It. For brevity, let's just call her Bad Tank. And in case you think I am being harsh, said tank could not stance dance (even after we all showed her how to do so via macro) so I did not get a Nightbane kill in Kara until I changed guilds. But I digress.
Our GM put us all in our place the night he flipped out. He made it clear that our roles in his life, as far as he was concerned, were interchangeable/replaceable cogs that allowed him to complete heroics and facilitate raiding. We would do as we were told or we could gtfo. We were not to confuse ourselves with having such an exalted status as that of friend. He did not give a crap about our opinions or feelings unless they were along the lines of how great a GM he was. And in this specific instance, he cared more about not hurting Bad Tank's feelings by replacing her with a more able tank on that fight than he cared about frustrating the rest of the guild. He lost three of his most competent raiders, but he was happier that way. Well, until Bad Tank stopped playing a week later to go horde with her new boyfriend. Cough.
His venomous assertion that we guildies were not his friends took me by surprise, to be frank. After our months of raiding together, hearing his tales of woe both job and girl related, I had started to think of him as a friend, not just some avatar I visited at my convenience when I wanted some new loot. Yes, I'd had fallings out with friends IRL before, but I'd never had someone say to me "we're not friends" with an undercurrent of superiority and arrogance.
The big lesson here of course is my perception of reality does not equal your or anyone else's perception of the same situation or place in time. And until someone gets a BFF tattoo with your name on it or mails you a gaily wrapped dragonling as a present, don't make any assumptions about your relationships with other people. Like my mom's smart ass boyfriend always said "You know what happens when you assume, right? You make an Ass out of U and Me." I have to remind myself of this unpleasant experience whenever the "but I thought we were friends…" phrase pops into my head in light of an interaction gone awry.
The crappy thing about this particular lesson is I've had to repeat it more than once, because it just never sinks in for me. I'm hard-headed and soft-hearted that way. If only the armory had a friend stat or achievement so you could more accurately gauge your friend faction with your online acquaintances. Maybe they'll add that to the guild functionality in the expansion.
Until then, I'll keep on fighting the good fight, and keep on treating as friends the folks who make my online experience a fun way to spend my time. And as for those that turn out not to be friends after all? Well that is what ignore's for, and I've got a full 25 free spots I can fill, with 25 more after 3.3. You can't be on the same page with everyone all the time. All you can do is be true to yourself.