Just an unrelated add-on.
Sure enough that IRC and other instant messengers can help you meet new people, but human contact is irreplaceable.
Albeit a short one, I'm glad I showed up on IRC for the past few months, even though not much has changed since my last visit a few years ago.
Of course, it also depends on WHERE you search for friends...^_^;;
Otherwise, use these tools merely to bridge the gap between you and your friends, and make it a point to meet them physically. In that way, you will appreciate them more.