my take on online relationships is admittedly biased (for reasons that should be obvious to anyone that knows both Tara and myself,) but it seems straightforward to me.
the basis of a true friendship is the mind.
not the car you drive, or the money you have (or don't, lol,) or your appearance, or your "image." your mind.
although it is in fact quite easy to lie online, faking a whole personality is much more difficult. an online relationship, whether friendship or romance, offers an otherwise impossible opportunity: you get to know the PERSON, without being distracted by inessentials like "wow, pretty."
i say inessentials because by the time you hit 80, you aren't pretty anymore, no matter HOW you started out. what keeps you going into a true, deep, lasting relationship of any kind is the mind and personality of the people involved, and online, that's what you get to know first.
what a great idea! if you can get along with the person, everything else can be worked out. if you think they have a nice rump, but you hate their personality - well, that's kind of a problem, lmao.
as long as you keep a healthy sense of paranoia, online == good