In previous years too, if I was chatting with someone and knew some tidbit of gossip about a current issue from livejournal (back in the day), I'd say that I heard it "somewhere". I wouldn't have said "my Internet friend who lives in America told me".
Then last year, I saw a tweet from a guy that said "Just so you know, I refer to all you twitter friends as just 'friends' when I talk about you. It's just easier." Oh my goodness. Lightbulb!
So now I try and do that. In conversation, YOU - dear person I know from online - are my friend who made an interesting recipe last night, or saw the movie I want to see, or went to a cool place that I want to go to too.
The great thing is knowing people from online is fast losing ita stigma. Ten years ago if you said you were meeting up with someone you met on the Internet, you'd be warned about axe murderers. Now, going to an Instagram meetup or tweetup is not unusual!
Do you call your internet friends your friends? Or do you still hesitate?